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Can you spot fake Italians?

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Throughout the world, Italian food and wine enjoys a reputation of high quality thanks to its centuries-old traditions and dedication to quality and excellence.

However there are non-Italian producers who are wrongly cashing in on this outstanding reputation, by passing off locally produced food and wine to consumers, as Italian, when it actually has nothing to do with the country.

Surveys show that the most frequent imitations occur with Italian cheeses (parmigiano reggiano, grana padano, romano, asiago, fontina, gorgonzola) and cold cuts (pancetta, coppa, prosciutto di Parma, salame Toscano, Milano, soppressata calabrese).

These “fake products” manage to deceive the consumer through the use of labels, images or names on the package that recall Italy, including the Italian flag. More importantly, they aren’t held to the same quality standards that make Italian-made products so special.

So how can you make sure that the Italian food or wine that you’re buying is authentically Italian? It all comes down to checking the label.

Italy has more food products than any other European country that carry designations of origin or geographical indications. This heritage is certified by the European Union through a series of seals affixed to the packaging, that represent authenticity. These include:

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. For example, 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, for example, mozzarella cheese.

And lastly, DOC and DOCG (Denomination of Controlled Origin and Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) that legally define wine production areas and production methods.

So if you really want authentic Italian food and wine, check the label for any of the above seals, to make sure that what you’re purchasing is, in fact, authentically Italian.

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