Parmesan cheese, one of the fake 'Italian' foods

Fake ‘Made in Italy’ food products has global turnover of €120billion

Business News

The global turnover of fake ‘Italian’ food products has risen to an annual €120 billion, Coldiretti farmers group said Monday. The most cloned culinary goods include Parmigiano and Grana Padano cheeses.

Coldiretti announced on Monday that fake Italian foods have a staggering €120billion annual turnover.

“Due to the continued rise of Italian sounding brands, over two-thirds of ‘Italian’ food products in the world are now fake,” it said. It added that the Ukraine war’s impact on world trade had exacerbated the situation.

Richer countries have more fake goods

Among the most ‘cloned’ products are cheeses, led by Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano. They’re followed by the iconic Parma ham and mortadella from Bologna.

And it’s not the poorer countries which are consuming the fake products. Richer countries are more likely to have false Italian sounding products. One example is the US, where the business is worth some €40 billion.

Italy is to step up the fight against Italian sounding food fakes, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told the AGM of food federation Federalimentare last August. The government’s plan for the extraordinary promotion of Italian products “envisages action to defend brands and quality and origin certifications; and to fight Italian sounding products” like Parmesan, he said.

Di Maio said that “damaging practices, like Italian sounding (products), have reached worrying proportions, especially in the agri-food sector”.

The Italian foreign ministry, he said, was engaged in “an intense action of combating the counterfeiting of Italian goods on a global scale”.

Parmigiano Reggiano has protected staus

In 2008, The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said Germany broke EU rules by allowing the name ‘Parmesan’ to be used for a German cheese.

Parmigiano Reggiano has the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.

In fact, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium has become increasingly assertive in defending its product’s name from improper use. It first scored a key legal victory several years ago when it managed to stop an American cheesemaker from using the Parmigiano tag on its grated cheese.

This was the fourth time in ten years that a US company had been forced to remove the label from its product. In 2003, Italy lobbied to have cloned American parmesan denied permission to export worldwide. The US product later failed in its bid to be admitted to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Codex Alimentarius.

Parmigiano Reggiano continues to be sold in cloned versions in South America, Japan and Britain. In France, meanwhile, ‘parmesan’ refers exclusively to the Italian cheese. In Brazil a pirated version is marketed as Parmesao, while Argentina calls its fake parmesan Regianito.

USA at the forefront of fake Italian foods

Online sales of classic Italian food and wine produce are booming but buyers should be careful of scams, Ansa reports a recent study as warning.

The sale of fake goods usually divides into two broad categories, the study noted. Firstly, there are goods that bear fake quality labels implying they have been manufactured to certain standards. This is a particular problem for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The second category covers items labelled as coming from one geographical area but which actually come from another place entirely. An example of this is Pompeian olive oil made in California.

The imitation of Italy’s prime food products is on the rise despite efforts to ban inferior clones, the Foreign Trade Institute (ICE) said recently.

‘Italian-sounding’ products now rake in some six billion dollars in sales. Meanwhile, the genuine articles only make about two billion dollars, said ICE.  Some 97% of ‘Italian’ pasta sauces and 76% of canned tomatoes on the North American market are bogus.

The USA is now churning out 1.7 million tonnes of imitation cheese. These include 1.3 million tonnes of mock mozzarella, 120 million tonnes of pretend provolone, 111,000 tonnes of bogus ricotta and 60,000 tonnes of phony parmesan.

However, in Europe, food authenticity standards are more rigorously observed. Last year saw a threefold increase in European Union customs seizures of fake Italian products bearing quality labels.

Italy has the highest number of EU seals of approval on its food and drink.

Leave a Reply