There is no denying that the world loves Italian food. So much so that even the mention of Italy or the emblazoning of the green, red and white on a product is enough to make us want to buy. There is no limit to the dodgy brands jumping on the Italiano bandwagon to sell some pretty substandard stuff. Food and wine counterfeiting is now worth an estimated 60 billion Euros per year. How does a consumer know that what they are getting is authentic and delicious?
Falsification of Italian food is typified by several characteristics. Possibly the most well-known (and most costly) is the use of Italian words and colours on products that are not Italian, any trip to the grocery store yields several of these examples with companies capitalising on the idea that Italian equates to good. Another example is the use of typically Italian terms to sell non-Italian wares. San Manzano ‘style’ tomatoes are not the same as actual San Manzano.
The last is actual falsifying of food stuffs. Extra virgin olive oil is particularly susceptible to this. Oil will be tainted with vegetable oils or nut oils, coloured with chlorophyll to emulate the vibrancy of the actual product. Pastas are being made with low quality flour and coloured yellow to look like egg pasta sold on as authentic and gourmet. And who hasn’t brought a bottle of truffle oil only to have it devoid of the coveted earthy aroma of actual truffles. There was even a case where tomatoes where being imported from China to Campania, processed and bottled in Italy, before being sold across Europe labelled as an Italian product.
So how do you protect yourself and your pantry from imposters? Classification systems are a method used to minimise the effects of this counterfeiting or at least allow the consumer to better navigate the bombardment of Italiano in advertising. DOP and IPG classifications are an indication that a food will taste the way it tastes in Italy. It is a mark of authentication and a way to guarantee quality. You can also try to shop direct from importers. A lot of Italian speciality shops will import their own goods, that includes Mercato. We have done the quality control and assurance for you!
In the end if you want to eat like a true Italian you must search out the best.