European PDO status protects some produce, but many generic terms are a free-for-all.
Plans to introduce a ‘Made in Italy’ scheme for food and beverage products could fail before it launches, as producers in the country struggle to reach a consensus on which products should qualify.
The Italian government announced plans for the certification last year. But an official in the government ministry responsible for its creation has conceded that the country’s food and drink producers could have a hand in scrapping the scheme, if they weren’t happy with the eligibility criteria.
“For now there is no final decision on whether to go ahead with the Made in Italy sign; we are studying it, we are doing technical checks,” the anonymous official told Reuters. “But we will launch it only if it fully meets the requests of producers.”
Opponents to the original plans believe that, for a product to be labelled as Made in Italy, it should contain only Italian ingredients.
But the Italian government’s proposal was to distinguish domestically produced items from cheaper imitations made abroad – like New Zealand mozzarella and Brazilian prosecco – which cost Italian companies billions of euros in lost revenue every year.
That would mean that products packaged in Italy, or made in Italy from imported ingredients, would receive the green light to use the Made in Italy mark.
For bigger companies like Barilla, which operates more than half of its global production facilities outside the country, it was an opportunity to indicate that its production processes adhere to traditional Italian standards – not a sign of the provenance of its wheat.
“We are Italian, we pay taxes in Italy and we run our foreign plants following the rules of Italian quality,” vice-chairman Paolo Barilla explained.
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But many, including the consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano producers, wanted to see the project tow a much stricter line.
“If we open the door to products with foreign ingredients, we are not talking of real Made in Italy,” chairman Riccardo Deserti was quoted as saying by Reuters. “This is not the kind of help we are looking for.”
Products that are protected separately under the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) scheme can not be replicated elsewhere; instead, the Italian government’s Made in Italy pilot was intended to extend that coverage to non-PDO produce.
Italian PDO food includes meats, such as various different versions of prosciutto, salami and pancetta. It also protects cheeses – Asiago, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano and Pecorino – as well as other products like traditional Balsamic vinegar.
But under the PDO scheme, only local variations of some products are protected, meaning that generic foreign brands of mozzarella and prosecco are allowed to flood the market.
In June last year, FoodBev reported that not-for-profit organisation Italian Identity was helping to protect authentic Italian produce by promoting the certification scheme Italcheck.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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