ROME—British lovers of Italian cuisine, be warned: Your pasta could be fake. Italy’s powerful agriculture lobby group Coldiretti has accused the U.S. of cashing in on shortages caused by Brexit.
Lorenzo Bazzana, Coldiretti’s chief economist, said in a statement that British consumers are now subject to “fake” Italian products that use fancy labeling and Italian colors to try to pass crappy cuisine for authentic Italian products. He blamed Brexit for a drop in imports of Italian products into the U.K., which he says has paved the way for what Italians see as culinary crimes, with the U.S. as the biggest offender.
“The British need to watch out for Italian oil and Parmesan with an Italian flag on the label, which actually comes from America,” he said, adding that there is also plenty of pasta made with substandard products and corner-cutting procedures now up for export. “Produce pretending to be Italian is worth €100 billion in sales a year globally, double the real food and drink coming from Italy.”
And Brexit has made it worse because of the popularity of Italian culture and cuisine there. “Now, the U.K. might become a Trojan horse in Europe,” he warns. “A gateway to Italy for fake Italian food.”
Prior to Brexit, the U.K. was Italy’s fourth-largest importer of Italian products after Germany, France, and the U.S. In 2020, the U.K. imported around $4 billion worth of pasta, prosciutto, prosecco, and cheeses. Italy’s finance ministry says that amount is predicted to drop drastically in 2021, the first full post-Brexit year. So far this year, Italian pasta exports to the U.K. fell by 28 percent, extra virgin olive oil by 13 percent, and tomato products by 16 percent. But studies show that Brits have not given up their love of Mediterranean cuisine, meaning they are getting the goods elsewhere.
Prior to Brexit, Italy relied on the U.K. to “crack down on fake Italian foods” and buy original. “But now it is out of the EU we cannot, hence our fear things could turn for the worse there,” Bazzana said. “We have already seen it happen in Russia, where the moment sanctions stopped Italian food arriving, Russian Parmesan, complete with the Italian flag, appeared in stores.”
Whether Italy can protect the integrity of its authentic cuisine in a post-Brexit world is not just a matter of taste, it is also a matter of law.
This is not the first time Coldiretti has defended authentic Italian cuisines, much of which is protected in the EU and meant to dissuade knock-off versions. When The New York Times dared to suggest tomatoes as an option to the traditional carbonara egg and sow’s cheek pasta, the group issued a damning statement, calling the altered recipe, “a disturbing knockoff of the prestigious dish from Italian popular tradition,” claiming the dish is already “one of the most disfigured Italian recipes.”
It’s also not the first time Brits have been swayed by what no Italian would consider their legitimate cuisine, namely the British propensity for putting pineapple on pizza. During July’s European football finals between Italy and England, British fans put huge chunks of pineapple on their pizza as a sign of support—and to rattle their foes.
Nonetheless, the Italians won the final, and now Brits are left with what might now be the only thing close to real pizza they can get.