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New legislation on pork labelling in Italy

Italy will soon introduce new legislation on the national labelling of pork products. It is related to levels of animal welfare and sow breeding conditions.

One bill has been approved into law with implementation to begin in July 2021. The new regulations stem from pressure in Italy to make information about pork products and other meat products clearer. Some in Italy feel that current product labels can be misleading for consumers with regard to breeding methods (such as the use of farrowing crates) and other aspects of animal welfare.

Various traditional pork products for sale at a shop in Rome, Italy. They may soon carry a label informing customers about the product’s background. - Photo: Shutterstock
Various traditional pork products for sale at a shop in Rome, Italy. They may soon carry a label informing customers about the product’s background. - Photo: Shutterstock

Harmonising pork labelling systems

In July 2020, the Italian parliament approved Law #77. Maurizio Gallo, director of the Italian pig industry organisation Associazione Nazionale Allevatori Suini (ANAS), explained that with this law, the ‘Sistema Qualità Nazionale Benessere Animale (SQNBA)’ comes into effect. The SQNBA harmonises several voluntary pork product labelling systems relating to the welfare, biosecurity and use of antibiotics in Italian livestock. “In the next months, a ministerial decree will be issued for ruling on the certification methods,” Gallo said.

“It is expected [to be] a scheme for every species and category (for instance in the pigs: farrowing and fattening stage, outdoor and indoor) and the ‘ClassyFarm’ system of the health ministry will have to be used. Then, all who are interested to label pork in Italy for welfare [that is, making claims in the use of production practices that relate to animal welfare] will have to comply at least to the minimum standard established by SQNBA.”

Second bill on pork product labelling

Against the background of this initiative, another bill (no. 2403) was presented in 2020 by animal rights groups Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) Italia and Legambiente, and was supported by a representative from Italy’s Free and Equal party (LeU) and integrated pork producer Fumagalli Industria Alimentari. The latter has focused on producing cured pork products from pigs raised to high welfare standards for years.

In April 2021, a similar labelling system was proposed for dairy products in Italy based on type of milk production and related animal management practices. In total 5 production levels were proposed, ranging from organic to intensive.

‘Labelling scheme too superficial’

CIWF Italia director Annamaria Pisapia is critical of Law 77. In her view, the labelling scheme is too superficial, with only one indoor production category and a free-range production category. She therefore argued that the law penalises the farmers who are already farming with better indoors standards, as they will be ‘put in the same pot’ with farmers that do basically intensive production. That also means, she said, that farmers who have already stopped tail docking would be categorised with those that still use the practice. In addition, CIWF Italia would like the law to address the use of sow gestation crates.