The global turnover of fake 'Italian'
food products has risen to an annual 120 billion euros,
Coldiretti farmers group said Monday.
"Due to the continued rise of Italian sounding brands, over two-thirds of 'Italian' food products in the world are now fake," it said, adding that the Ukraine war's impact on world trade had exacerbated the situation.
Among the most 'cloned' products are cheeses, led by Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano.
Other top bogus brands are iconic cold cuts like Parma and San Daniele ham and mortadella from Bologna, said Coldiretti.
Richer countries are more likely to have false Italian sounding products, such as the US, where the business is worth some 40 billion euros.
Italy is to step up the fight against Italian sounding food fakes, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told the AGM of food federation Federalimentare in a videolink with the Cibus fair last August.
The government's plan for the extraordinary promotion of Italian products last year "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".
In 2008 The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said Germany broke European Union rules by allowing the name 'Parmesan' to be used for a German cheese that mimicked Italy's glory Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parmigiano Reggiano has the EU's Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.
The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium has had to 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 Organization's (FAO) Codex Alimentarius.
Parmigiano Reggiano continues to be sold in cloned versions in South America, Japan and Britain, while in France 'parmesan' refers exclusively to the Italian cheese.
In Brazil a pirated version is marketed as Parmesao, while Argentina calls its fake parmesan Regianito.
Online sales of classic Italian food and wine produce are booming but buyers should be careful of scams, a recent study warned.
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 apparently a particular problem for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, which has been plagued by those inferior clones over the years.
The second category covers items labelled as coming from one geographical area but which actually come from another place entirely, such as a 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 while the genuine articles only make about two billion dollars, said ICE, presenting the results of a survey of North American specialty food stores carried out with the Parma Chamber of Commerce.
Some 97% of 'Italian' pasta sauces and 76% of canned tomatoes on the North American market are bogus, ICE said.
The USA is now churning out 1.7 million tonnes of imitation cheese including 1.3 million tonnes of mock mozzarella, 120 million tonnes of pretend provolone, 111,000 tonnes of phony ricotta and 60,000 tonnes of pirated parmesan.
Gorgonzola is sold as Cambozola in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Britain, where it is a favourite with foodies.
Australia tries even harder to camouflage the name with its Tinboonzola.
Two other cheeses, Asiago from the far north and Robiola from Emilia, are respectively cloned in Wisconsin and Canada.
'Danish Grana' can be found on US shelves alongside American versions of Parma ham and San Daniele ham.
Other fakes include Californian-grown San Marzano tomatoes and pirated Chianti produced in Australia and the US.
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.
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