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31 July 2015

Counterfeiting of Italian wine and food products shows the need for continuous and effective controls

Faking not only causes economic damage for our country, but also represents a risk to food safety.

Food is fundamental to life. The body needs nutrition in order to ensure the correct strength, efficiency and energy levels. And as citizens of the Bel Paese (“Beautiful Country”), we can say that good food is also crucial in building positive social relations.

Two centuries ago, the philosopher Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, stated “We are what we eat”. It is important to know the properties of our food, where it comes from and to be sure that what we read on labels corresponds to the truth. The main concern of consumers, however, is food safety. Food should be safely prepared and stored for health reasons and we should be able to trust the information about its origin and quality.

To allow the final consumer to make informed choices about the characteristics of the food they eat, the national legislature has ruled that food labels should carry a mandatory indication of the place of origin or provenance. For unprocessed food, the place of origin or provenance should mean the country it comes from and, if known, the production area. As for processed food, the label will show the area of cultivation or the source of the main raw ingredients used in the preparation or production of the food.

But if this is the regulatory framework, how is it possible that the cheese powder manufactured in South America can be peddled as pecorino from Lazio; that Milan salami can come from Brazil; that German gorgonzola is on sale; as is American Chianti or Romanian Barbera wine? Surely, food fraud of this kind indicates that the product being counterfeited is famous worldwide, but the fact that this fake food is being produced at all offers little comfort. In addition to the economic damage to our agricultural sector there is the added risk of the lack of controls that our food protection organisations apply to Italian products that are famous throughout the world.


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