Italian food classifications explained – Mercato

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Italian food classifications explained

Italians take their food seriously, really seriously. The sourcing of ingredients and the recipes used is usually the result of generations of trial and perfection with each product being a pure reflection of the place in which it was developed. It is no wonder that in a country embodied by food a classification system is needed to allow consumers to detect the authentic from the false. The system can be confusing, so we have made a handy guide to navigate the terms: 

DOP / PDO

Denominazione d’origine Protetta / Protected designation of origin

Just to be extra confusing, these are the same. DOP status is regulated by the Italian Ministry for Agriculture and refers to products from a specific area where the regionality is a principal component of the product’s quality and production. Factors such as climate, environment and traditional techniques are all contributors to the products regionality and DOP claim. For products classified as DOP, all steps of the production process must be conducted within a specific area, ingredients must all come from that area and the product must be made in accordance with traditional production methods. In some cases, the region this can be as small as several villages. But, it is important to keep in mind that DOP status will be printed on the label for genuine products. DOP basil is from Genoa in Liguria and is grown using traditional techniques within a very small area. But non-DOP basil can also come from Genoa, it may just be grown in a different way, or possibly across the street from where the regional boundary falls. 

Examples: 

DOP San Manzano tomatoes – a variety of tomato renowned for it’s depth of flavour an ability to create rich sauces. The DOP tomatoes are only grown in the volcanic soil surrounding Mt. Vesuvius in Campania. Once you taste the difference you will understand why these tomatoes are so coveted. More information here (link to Soliana san Marzano page)

DOP Prosciutto di Parma – must be made in Parma, from pigs raised in Parma. Proscuitto di Parma has a distinct flavour because of the diet that the pigs are reared on as well as traditional curing techniques, style of aging and cuts used.  

IPG / PGI

Indicazione geografica protetta / Protected geographical indication

Also the same depending on what country the product is purchased in. This is a step down from DOP in regulation but also serves to maintain the reputation of the region and quality of the product. The classification stipulates that the production of the product must be within a specific geographical area using traditional techniques but that the ingredients can be from outside the region.  

Examples: 

Siena Panforte IGP – a traditional Christmas fruit cake from Siena in Tuscany. Sweet and densely packed with honey, fruit and nuts. IGP means it must be made in Siena using a traditional recipe but the ingredients can come from elsewhere. 

STG / TSG

Specialita tradizione grananita / traditional specialities guaranteed

This classification is used to provide protection for the particular character of a food. The food must be of a specific character or traditional methods must be used to produce it. The classification refers to how the product is made rather than where and from what. There are only two products classified as this: Pizza Napolitana and Mozzarella Cheese. 

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