- Have you ever doubted the origin of a product when buying food? And have you ever heard of the Italian-sounding phenomenon?
The project True Italian Taste was launched in 2016 in Northern America, and then in Europe just years later. Thanks to the collaboration of 41 Italian Chambers of Commerce worldwide, the project aims to raise awareness of the consumption of Italian food and “Made in Italy” products.
In the UK, the project is managed by the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK (ICCIUK), a private membership organisation that promotes business relationships between Italy and the UK.
Over the years, ICCIUK has organised several events to spread the knowledge of PDO and PGI products, their traceability, their history and know-how. These two designations are very important for Italian production, as they are a symbol of excellence. Furthermore, the events aimed at highlighting the importance of reading the label on the packaging: the only way to find out where a product comes from.
Indeed, there are many food items on the market that seem or sound Italian but were actually produced elsewhere or with non-Italian ingredients. When these products are created to look like they are ‘Made in Italy’, they belong to the ‘Italian Sounding’ category.
In the UK, the most affected products are Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and olive oil. Parmigiano Reggiano, for example, is sometimes mistaken for ‘parmesan’. Every year, the Consorzio Parmigiano Reggiano inspects thousands of points of sale to evaluate whether the product was counterfeited.
As the Court of Justice of the European Union pointed out in 2008, only Parmigiano Reggiano bearing the Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) label can be sold under the name ‘parmesan’ in the European Union. This way, Italian producers can be protected, and consumers can easily trace back what they buy.
Prosciutto di Parma is also often counterfeited. The producers must follow strict guidelines, starting from the selection of the animals, to their feeding, and the ageing period of the meat. All the products receive an official certification stamp, the Ducal Crown, and must be inspected before they are sold.
Olive oil producers must also follow strict rules for the products, the labels, and the packaging, as there are plenty of bottles sold in boxes with the Italian flag, or referring to Italy, even though the olives come from other countries.
Encouraging a conscious consumption of authentic products is one way to protect Italian producers and combat the diffusion of the “Italian sounding” phenomenon, whose value has reached €100 billion worldwide.
If you want to make sure you are buying an Italian product, check the label. If you see a PDO or PGI symbol, it is even easier to spot that a product is authentically Italian.
Find out about upcoming True Italian Taste events here.