Food and wine masquerade

There is monetary value in passing off an Australian food or drink as Italian. (Photo: Pxhere)

Could you tell an Italian product from an Australian product that’s trying to pretend it’s Italian?

There is monetary value in passing off an Australian food or drink as Italian, as consumers here are usually willing to pay more for what they think is Italian.

Italy has more food products than any other European country which carry designations of origin or geographical indications.

The Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Australia recently held an event aimed at throwing light on this issue. It aimed to educate, leverage and support certified Italian foods and beverages outside Italy. Its activities focus primarily on countries which have received a lot of Italian migrants, such as Australia, many of whom have wanted to copy the products of their home country.

Understandable, but often confusing.

At the start, the hostess flashed slides of packaged foods and drinks on a screen. Each guest was given a pair of cards at the door, one red, one green. If we thought the product was Italian we held up the green card, red if we thought it was an impostor. It seemed there was pretty good understanding in the room, but some of the food products were so cleverly packaged they tricked many of us.

A packet of cannoli shells with an Italian flag on it. A salami with a map of Italy on it. Red, green and white tri-colours were everywhere. There was even an Aussie grappa di prosecco. A James Busby prosecco (a Coles Liquor brand) is named Vero. Vero means true, but it’s not true at all, our hostess exclaimed.

Italy has more food products than any other European country which carry designations of origin or geographical indications. There are 314 of them—PDO, PGI and TSG certifications. They apply to hams, cheeses, balsamic vinegars, olives, fruits, vegetables and raw meats.

Each is represented by a seal affixed to the packaging.

DOC and DOCG legally define wine production areas and production methods.

PDO (Protected Designation of Origin or DOP) ensures the product is produced in a specific geographic area by local farmers and artisans, using traditional methods. Examples are Grana Padano and Prosciutto Lipari.

PGI (Protected Geographical Indication or IGP) identifies a product whose quality or reputation is linked to the place or region where it is produced or processed. It is not as stringent as DOP. Eg. Aceto Balsamico di Modena.

TSG (Traditional Specialty Guaranteed or STG) identifies a product with traditional features, either in composition or means of production, without a specific link to a geographic area. Eg. pizza Napoletana and mozzarella cheese.

Finally, DOC and DOCG (Denomination of Controlled Origin and Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) legally define wine production areas and production methods. DOC means a wine made from an officially delimited geographic zone, from an officially prescribed grape or blend of grapes. Even more rigidly controlled are DOCG wines.

IGP can also be used to signify that a wine is from a particular geographic area.

One of the presenters was Dr Paula Zito, an IP and commercial lawyer who is working at Adelaide University law school on food GIs for Australia. It works both ways.


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