April fool’s day has a long tradition of hoaxes across Europe, Australia and North America. Part of the tradition, along with all ages playing practical jokes on one another, is for the press to include fake stories in the newspapers published on the day. One of my favourites included Panorama, a current affairs program aired by the BBC, purportedly showing farmers in Switzerland harvesting pasta from a ‘Spaghetti tree’. So successful was this hoax that the BBC was inundated with calls from viewers asking where they could source their own tree for their gardens. All very amusing.
However, for Italian producers of genuine protected food products, this is no laughing matter. Counterfeit Italian gourmet products are being offered to the tune of €60billion per year according to some sources, and it is a global epidemic. Olive oil, mozzarella, Parma ham and wine are amongst the products hardest hit with many of the products being sold as Italian never having been product there. The scale of the challenge is immense, with one Italian source putting the total production of fake Parmigiano Reggiano in the US in excess of the real production of the cheese in Italy. And when genuine white truffles from Alba fetch up to €5,000 per kg, you want to be sure you know what you are buying is real.
As a consumer, why should you be worried? Surely all food needs to be produced to a certain standard and there are rules, right? Yes, there are rules, but the counterfeiters, many of them involved in extensive organised crime networks, are not concerned with consumer welfare. They don’t’ obey the rules. It’s all about the money, which they then use to buy genuine luxury food and drink products. Or, as is more likely, to fuel other criminal activities. So next time you are after an Italian food bargain, make sure you check the provenance of the product, or it may just leave a sour taste in your mouth and the joke will be on you.