The Italian government on Tuesday introduced legislation to ban the production and sale of synthetic foods, including artificial meat.
The new parliamentary bill "is based on the precautionary principle because today there is no scientific evidence of possible harmful effects linked to the consumption of synthetic foods", said Health Minister Orazio Schillaci, at a press conference following a cabinet meeting that gave the green light to the initiative.
Fake meat has long been produced, with varying degrees of success, from vegetable sources like soya, peas or beans.
But the new legislation targets synthetic products being developed in laboratories from animal cells, without killing the donor animal.
If the ban is approved by parliament, penalties for violators would include fines of up to €60,000.
Italy's agricultural association Coldiretti organised a flash mob near the seat of government in central Rome on Tuesday afternoon, with the message "no to synthetic food".
"Italy, which is a European leader in food quality and safety, has a duty to be at the forefront of food policies to defend citizens and businesses," Coldiretti president Ettore Prandini said in a statement.
In order to come into force, the bill will have to be adopted within two months by parliament, which will have the possibility to amend it during debates.
Currently, no marketing applications for such foods have been made in the EU, and it is likely to be at least 2025 before such foods appear on shelves in Europe.