ROME - Italy's government on Tuesday was set to approve a bill banning the use of laboratory-produced meat in food and animal feed as it aims to safeguard the country's "agri-food heritage", a draft seen by Reuters said.

The draft law bill, still subject to approval at a cabinet meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. (1500 GMT), forbids Italian industry from producing food or feed "from cell cultures or tissues derived from vertebrate animals".

It does not apply to products made or sold elsewhere in the European Union, in Turkey or in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The nationalist administration of Giorgia Meloni has pledged to shield Italy's food from technological innovations seen as harmful, and renamed the agriculture ministry the "ministry for agriculture and food sovereignty".

Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, one of Meloni's closest allies, says laboratory products endanger the traditional link between agriculture and food.

Violations can result in fines of up to 60,000 euros ($65,000) and the shutdown of factories, the draft says, and producers may lose their right to obtain public funding for up to three years.

The ban on "cell-based" meat is not the only initiative the right-wing government in Rome has put in place to block non-conventional food from being served on Italian tables.

Last week, Meloni said the government was preparing a rush of decrees to introduce information labels on products containing or derived from insects, amid a debate on the use of cricket flour.

"People must be able to make an informed choice," she wrote on Twitter.

Agricultural lobby Coldiretti on Tuesday praised the government's move against "synthetic food", saying the ban was needed to safeguard home production "from the attacks of multinational companies".

Strong criticism came instead from animal rights group LAV, which said lab-meat, which is produced from the cells of living animals, represented a good alternative to intensive breeding and slaughtering.

It called the bill "an ideological, anti-scientific crusade against progress".

($1 = 0.9240 euros)

(Editing by Gavin Jones and Ed Osmond)