Skip to comments.Italy fights back against food pirates
Posted on 06/28/2007 10:53:37 PM PDT by bruinbirdman
Mozzarella from Minnesota, Parmesan from Brazil, Italian tomatoes from China Italy has had enough of other countries pirating some of its defining produce.
Producers launched a campaign yesterday against what they call global food fraud. The Italian farmers union, Coldiretti, opened an exhibition of counterfeit Italian foods, purchased around the world, to raise the profile of its campaign.
The exhibition in Palazzo Rospigliosi, the unions Rome headquarters, follows a case in the European Court of Justice to prove that Parmesan cheese is not a generic term. Italy insists that the name refers only to Parmigiano Reggiano, made for centuries in Parma and the region of Reggio Emilia.
Sergio Marini, the head of Coldiretti, said that food pirates were causing Italy enormous economic damage. He added: They falsify the geographical identity of food to deliberately confuse the consumer. We want detailed labelling showing the exact origin of a food product to be obligatory through the world.
Mr Marini said the trade in fake Italian foodstuffs amounted to an estimated 50 billion (£34 billion) a year. Given that Italys food exports are worth 17 billion a year, this means that three out of four products sold as Italian are fraudulent, he said.
Parmesan has become a test case, with Coldirettis spies finding ingenious variants of the name on shelves around the world. Kraft, which makes Pamesello, says that it used the term not to deceive but rather to comply with EU rules designating Parmesan as a product of protected designation of origin (DOP).
Other examples include Perfect Italian Parmesan made in Australia and labelled with the Italian flag, and something called Parmesao in Brazil.
Stefano Masini, the head of consumer affairs for Coldiretti, said that the US was the worst culprit, with products made to look Italian because the magic of the Mediterranean sells.
We have not so far been sent any products from Britain giving the false impression that they are Italian, he said. But if Times readers find them, we ask them to e-mail us a photo and we will send them the real thing as a reward.
Yesterday the Advocate General at the European Court, Jan Mazak, upheld Italys contention that Parmesan was geographically specific.
But he said that a case brought by the European Commission and Italy against Germany for failing to prosecute companies that marketed Parmesan should be dismissed. He said it was up to firms damaged by violation of the DOP rules to bring legal cases, not member states.
That said, I know the difference in taste. So will it satisfy the the EU that the USA still buys tons of Kraft like-cheese with a name change?
Cant even get decent food right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. Im an average nobody . . . get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.
I believe there is also a case concerning Mozzarella, which is made from the milk of water buffalo.
The common mozzarella we use today is made from cow's milk, and certain Italian districts want legal protections for their product, including calling the cow's milk product using some other name.
Something closer to home is the recent recognition of certain California wines such as the Napa Valley wines as a recognized regional trademark by the EU.
I'm not sure whether this is good or bad or where it will lead legally and economically, but it is a trend.
Moozzarella - close enough.
One way of getting around that, common in the USA, is by using the words “style” and “food.” An example would be “Mozzarella-style cheese food.”
That was due to the fact that the imitators were not using the Champagne Grape to make the wine. France guarded that grape, but some growers in Britain and the US have found a variant that will grow outside of France. So they should be able to call the wine that is produced from it Champagne. Wine category is based on the type of grape or mix there of.
I have never heard of grana. Every cheese type source has Parmesan as a category that represents a certain type of cheese regardless of where it came from.
I don’t know what the Ities hope to gain from this. It’s not going to increase the purchase of “authentic” Italian Parmesan. People will continue to buy American Parmesan.
Ya know I always hate it when they switch the names from my sporting/concert venue into another corporate sponsor. Now my discussions about cheese will be just as confusing.
"I had some great Chicken Parmesan with some fresh Mozzarella..."
"WAIT! was that with the former cheese or the currently named protected designation of origin.?"
"Well the Parmesan was former, the Mozz was PDO."
Does this mean that sandwiches will be illegal to make outside of the traditional area of the Earl of Sandwich?
What’s in a Name?
By Alice Fixx
PDO is short for Protected Designation of Origin. It is a European Community certification system designed to protect the names of high-quality foods made according to traditional methods in a defined geographic region.
In addition to providing legally binding name protection for these products, the PDO system helps consumers distinguish between authentic products and their many imitations. PDO is translated in Italian as DOP, and in French as AOP. (AOC and DOC are similar appellations that protect wines.)
The whole concept of “terroir” territory holds that the taste and other unique qualities of traditionally made foods and wines are influenced directly by soil, plant life, climate and time-honored methods of production that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
When is Swiss cheese not Swiss cheese? When it’s Comte, a gruyere-style cheese, from France. Swiss cheese is one of the many “brands” that have eroded over time to the point where the term has almost lost its meaning. While Swiss cheese generally means gruyere, it can be made anywhere, from the Midwest U.S. to South America, with whatever quality and ingredients the manufacturer chooses. This is why regional producers with traditional methods and regulations are fighting back to protect and market their higher-quality products.
In most of the world, wines and many spirits have long been legally designated and protected not just by country, but also by region. Champagne comes only from the small champagne region in northern France, port comes only from Portugal’s Oporto, and all true sherry originates in Jerez, Spain. Unlike Swiss cheese, Napa Valley merlot comes only from California’s Napa Valley, Chianti only from a certain part of Italy’s Tuscany. In almost every case, national or state governments have assigned areas known for high-quality vineyards a special designation to indicate the quality of the terrain. These are called appellations of origin. In Italy, wines labeled DOCG are the finest, which translates roughly to denoting a place of origin that is controlled and guaranteed. In France, AOC on a label indicates an appellation of controlled origin.
While wines have a long history of this kind of legal protection, which also ensures the consumer of quality, many foodstuffs are starting to take the tact for the first time. Like the best vineyards, Comte is also a French AOC region, and the cheese made there comes entirely from the milk of specific Montbeliard cattle, each of which have an average of one hectare of grazing room, and are fed only natural products. Many other rules govern the aging, what can be added and every other aspect of Comte’s production, which is why it is considered the finest “Swiss” cheese, and why it is worth seeking out.
Some 500-plus products are currently petitioning the European Union for some form of appellation protection, and the reason many of these are worth knowing about is because in many cases they are the finest products of their types, akin to Cuban cigars or Scotch whiskey. The best-known example is Parmigiano-Reggiano, known as the “King of Cheeses,” which comes only from the twin cities of Parma and Reggio in Italy.
Long ago, the consortium of boutique dairy farmers who have been making the cheese in the traditional manner for 700-years lost the use of the name “parmesan,” which is now slapped on cardboard containers of tasteless grated cheese made from artificial ingredients. Other variations on the word parmigiano are used by cheese makers in locales as far flung as Argentina, often confusing the public.
One taste of the real thing will clarify any misconceptions, and only the full name Parmigiano-Reggiano ensures that you are purchasing the authentic artisanal process behind the cheese, which includes milk from special cows which are fed special diets, zero additives, a minimum of two years aging, and rejection of all but the best final product. You can find true parmigiano-reggiano cheese from numerous retail and wholesale sources throughout the country. Buy some sort of “parmigiano-style” cheese from elsewhere and you might as well be drinking Iranian “champagne.”
Many people erroneously believe that appellation designations refer simply to places where the products or ingredients grow well, but in most of the cases before the EU, it is actually more about the protection of a traditional method of production that has long has strict rules. By French law, all champagne can only be made from three grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Sparkling wine from elsewhere can be made from almost any grape or even other fruits, such as apples. When you purchase items with an appellation, or simply ones from regions famous for producing them, you usually are getting the best available product for your money.
In a speech last year, Arthur Schwartz, author of Naples at Table and proprietor of the website The Food Maven, lauded the decision to protect many indigenous foodstuffs. “Italy has a long, long tradition of distinctive agriculture and food manufacture that reflects the geography, climate, culture and even politics of every region. This can’t be repeated enough: These foods gain their character from the earth they grow in, the climate that nurtures them and the skills of the people who make them. In Parma or Bologna or Modena you had the best prosciutto. At home, demand genuine prosciutto di Parma.
It is neither practical nor necessary to try to memorize all 500 items the EU is legalizing. Nor is it solely an EU concern: true Vidalia onions, famed for their sweetness, come from Vidalia county, Georgia. The renowned Vermont maple syrup can’t be produced in Texas and Maine lobsters have such a lofty reputation that their place of origin is boldly listed on menus all over the world. So how can you tell when a product is of dubious origin?
Often a shortened or altered version of a food’s name, such as parmesan or simply prosciutto, indicates a hijacking of the brand. In other cases, look for the addition of the vague term “style.” The famous and very, very expensive beefs of Japan, Kobe and Waygu, which come from cows not only fed special diets but massaged and pampered as if at a spa, are currently being replicated by domestic producers at much lower prices, so keep a wary eye out for “Kobe-style” beef on menus at even the finest of restaurants. After all, when you see signs proclaiming New York-style pizza almost anywhere in the world, it means only one thing for sure: You’re not in New York.
when the US is flooded with products form every part of the world it is called free trade....
when the US sends products to other countries...those countries find ways to ban the products to save jobs in their countries...
end free trade.......begin FAIR Trade!!!!
You don't get it. US free trade is all about letting the products of other countries in, in exchange for not messing with the products of certain politically-connected US companies. Products of unconnected US citizens get screwed over
European socialism inspired protectionism.
[Eugene is explaining his intense desire to play for the Yankees]
Eugene: I’ll never make it with the Yankees. All the great Yankees are Italian. My mother makes spaghetti with ketchup - what chance do I have?
I ordered some Italian sausage the other day - and it wasn’t even from Italy! I was gypped!