The Italian Almanac

Italian food?

Italian News - April 4

The imitation of Italy's prime food products is on the rise despite efforts to ban inferior clones, the Foreign Trade Institute (ICE) said Monday. 'Italian-sounding' products now rake in some six billion dollars in sales while the genuine articles only make about two billion dollars, said ICE, presenting the results of a survey of North American specialty food stores carried out with the Parma Chamber of Commerce.

Some 97% of 'Italian' pasta sauces and 76% of canned tomatoes on the North American market are bogus, ICE President Ugo Calzoni said. "If the real Italian products only had a quarter of the total 'Italian' market it would mean 500 million dollars more a year for our firms," Calzoni said.

Parma Chamber of Commerce chief Andrea Zanlari said: "We really have to take action because the damage to bona fide Italian specialties is truly colossal". To combat food pirates, Italy is stepping up efforts to protect its food heritage, with Parma's Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium spearheading the fight.

Last November Parmigiano scored its latest victory, stopping an American cheesemaker from using the Parmigiano tag on its grated cheese. It was the fourth time in ten years that a US company had been forced to remove the label from its product.

America may be the greatest offender against Italian cheese authenticity, but it is not the only one. Parmigiano Reggiano is also sold in cloned versions in South America, Japan, Germany and Britain. 'Danish Grana' can be found on US shelves alongside American versions of Parma ham and San Daniele ham.

Other fakes include Californian-grown San Marzano tomatoes and pirated Chianti produced in Australia and the US.