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The bitter taste of counterfeit food

by Marcello Parmeggiani last modified 2008-06-20 15:13

Parmesan from Wisconsin? Parma ham from Canada? We take a look at how Italian food is imitated all over the world leaving a bitter after-taste for gastronomes and connoisseurs alike.

San MarzanoWhat international system can guarantee against the misuse or unlawful appropriation of the Geographical Indications set out by the European Union? None, it would appear if Coldiretti's (Italy's foremost farmer's association) complaints at the recent WTO summit in Doha are anything to go by.
The list of quality Italian food and wine which has been ambushed by international gastropirates increases daily. The Internet too has its culprits. On, for example, you can happily purchase "Parmesan", "Pecorino Romano" and Asiago" - all made in Wisconsin. If you prefer Mascarpone, Bel Gioioso, Crotonese and black-crust Parmesan - since when has parmesan got a black crust, you may well ask - then head for And these are but two examples.

According to Coldiretti Parmesan cheese is the most pirated Italy product throughout the world. Canada peddles more 'false foods' than any other country selling everything from Grana Padana to Stracchino cheeses, Parma ham to Genoese, Calabrese and Milan sausages. The US, on the other hand, is fond of wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tomato sauces. Go to for San Marzano plum tomatoes whose seeds - as the site proudly declares - "have been transported to sunny California giving a sweet, meaty and flavorful result."

There are currently 117 listed Italian products out of an EC total of 577. They break down into 30 cheeses, 30 fruit, vegetable and cereal products, 25 olive oils, 25 meat-based products, 1 bread, 2 balsamic vinegars, 2 fresh meats and 2 types of table olives for a total 5,500 billion lire in agricultural terms, 14,000 billion to the end user and some 300,000 jobs.

Coldiretti - - The Association site (Italian only)
Parmigiano Reggiano - - The Parmesan official website
PDO Cheese - - A full list of PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheese
EU Quality Policy - - PDO and PGI products as listed by the EU

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