The international ubiquity of Italian food is a double-edged sword for the land of pizza and pasta.
On the one hand, it's a source of national pride, while on the other, Italy has to constantly be on the lookout for imitators trying to flood the market with inferior quality products like wood-shavings 'Parmesan'.
As much of an affront as this is to the food artisans of Reggiano, ignorance—combined with well-branded "Italian" products with little or no real connection to the motherland—have been hurting Italy's agricultural sector, to the tune of $18 billion, according to some estimates.
But some Italian politicians want to draw a line in the sand by imposing an all-out ban on the so-called "Italian-sounding" names being used to give frozen pizzas and pre-made risottos an Italian flare.
Nicola Danti, MEP of the Socialist and Democrat party, is fed up with foreign food manufacturers mooching off of Italy's culinary reputation and calls it "an odious and unfair commercial practice." He is calling on the EU to take action against misleading labelling which can fetch upwards of 50 percent more than standard products by giving them an air of Italian sophistication.
"[It] affects not only Italian agricultural producers and the entire European agro-food sector, but also the credibility and trust in all the products sold in the European Internal Market," Danti told FoodNavigator.
"This is a sensitive topic for the European know-how in these sectors that needs adequate attention at the European level; in fact, national solutions and enforcement authorities are not sufficient to tackle this problem in the EU."
Similarly, under current EU regulation, any yogurt claiming to be "Greek" must state the country where it is manufactured. But Danti and food lawyers told FoodNavigator that the current regulatory framework is not aggressive enough given that legislation surrounding food labels varies from country to country and it is very difficult for Italy to enforce its culinary uniqueness beyond its borders.
Italy already has 279 original protected labels—more than any other EU nation.