One of the reasons Italy is best known for is its food. Italians use healthy ingredients and create delicious dishes. People from all over the world love the food the Bel Paese can offer. And nowadays they can even find some typical Italian food at the supermarket without necessarily taking a trip to Italy to taste it.
But…are you sure that the food you buy is really Italian? Do you really know what you’re eating?
Since Italian food is so loved, it is also one of the most counterfeited products in the world. It’s estimated that trade in counterfeit Italian food amounts to 60 billion euros a year.
The most counterfeited products are the commonest ones: tomato sauce, cheese and olive oil. On their packages usually appear Italian flags, city names, and a series of slogans such as real Italian food, authentic Italian product, taste of Italy, and so on.
These products not only deceive consumers but usually they also don’t grant the same quality and safety standards as Italian food does.
So, how to recognize real authentic Italian food?
You can spot real authentic Italian food either by looking for quality labels and specific acronyms or simply by reading the traditional label.
Let’s start with quality labels and specific acronyms. In Italy the presence of these types of labels and specific acronyms indicates that a product has been produced in a specific Italian region using traditional methods.
There are at least four types of quality labels and acronyms:
DOP means Denominazione di Origine Protetta – protected designation of origin. To be certified as a DOP, a product must have some qualities that can be granted only if it is produced in a certain Italian region. In addition to this, this acronym grants that the product is produced, processed and prepared exclusively in that region.
IGP means Indicazione Geografica Protetta – protected geographical indication. This certification is less strict than DOP. It can be given to products that have a certain reputation, features or qualities linked to a specific geographical area, and that are produced, processed or prepared in that area.
DOC means Denominazione di Origine Controllata – controlled designation of origin. It’s the same of DOP but it’s specific for wines and grapes.
Finally, DOCG means Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – controlled designation of origin guaranteed. It’s the most important quality label an Italian wine can have. DOCG is given to wines and grapes that have DOC certification at least from 5 years. DOCG beverages are subjected to more controls than the DOC ones, and bottles have a special numbered seal across the cap to prevent manipulation.
You can find a list of Italian DOP and IGP products at this link.
In the next weeks I’m going to talk about how to recognize fake Italian food by reading traditional labels.