90 billion euros: that is, according to Italy’s farmer association Coldiretti, the estimated turnover of fake Italian products all over the world. From parmesan to pasta achuta, countless are the products that pretend to be Italian but are not Made in Italy at all.
Defined as “Italian sounding”, these products are marketed using brand names, images and color combinations evocative of Italy. Although some might argue that this extra “visibility” supports the growth of authentic Italian exports, the truth is that this is still worth half of the Italian sounding one. 

Fake Italian products do not add value to the sector: they gravitate in a parallel economy that takes away business opportunities from all the professionals involved. Besides precluding authentic Italian products from enjoying a larger growth in sales – which, in turn, affects the figures of the workforce involved – Italian sounding brands also foster skepticism of consumers, as they are tricked into purchasing poor quality food that clashes with the widespread knowledge about Italian agri-food excellences.   

Although the European Union and Italy decided to state Designations of Origin for the best foods and wines produced in the country, some of the most famous Italian products – like mozzarella and pizza – are not protected by a specific regulation therefore they can be easily copied and produced outside of the country. Even if counterfeiting is legally punishable, Italian sounding products cannot be strictly classified as illegal; yet they represent a significant damage to potential exports of Made in Italy.

In order to protect our products, the introduction of a new certification is being considered; however, a much more structured approach, both from European politics and international diplomats, could really help. Declaring illegal all those products that try to imitate Italian specialties would be possible by stipulating bilateral agreements between the European Union and the countries that are strategic markets for our exports. 

If there is already a treaty with Canada, which protects 160 Italian products with the PDO and PGI brands, with the United States a bilateral agreement has never been stipulated. The most challenging market is still the Chinese one even if, after long negotiations, it has recently welcomed certified rice from a selection of Italian companies.

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