Italian Sounding: what does it mean? Can you spot fake Italian food?

by Redazione Fine Taste

Many of you will have heard of the phenomenon of Italian Sounding. This term refers to the phenomenon which consists in the fraudulent use on labels and packaging of names, geographical references, images and color combinations that "evoke" Italian food products. This is for the simple and subtle purpose of promoting the marketing of agri-food products by misleading people into believing that they are authentic Italians, when in reality they have little or nothing Italian about them.

For the most part, these are products made by companies that purchase raw materials from abroad at a lower cost and then work in Italy, or by Italian companies taken over by foreign companies that exploit the Italian brand to further promote sales.

This practice is an illegal appropriation of the competitive advantage that Italian products have internationally in the name of high profits.

What damage does fake Italian food cause?

As you can imagine, the phenomenon of Italian sounding has a devastating impact on the entire Made in Italy agri-food sector. Just think that we are talking about economic damage of over 60 billion euros! It seems absurd but on a global level, data from Coldiretti, approximately 66% of Italian agri-food products are fake and have no connection with our country!

Just because it looks Italian doesn't mean it's original!

How many of you will have happened, on holiday or traveling for work, to wander through the shelves of any supermarket abroad and come across products such as parmesan, Prošek or Zottarella. Have you ever heard about it? These are non-Italian products, without any connection to Italy or involvement with an Italian manufacturer. For us Italians it is quite simple to recognize these counterfeits but the same cannot be said for the average foreign consumer!

What are the most copied Italian agri-food products?

The most frequent imitation occurs with Italian wines, especially Prosecco. But equally high is the falsification of cheeses (Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Mozzarella, Pecorino and Gorgonzola), pasta, tomato-based sauces and cured meats (first and foremost Parma ham).

Italian Sounding not only damages the typical product from a monetary point of view but contributes to debasing a trait of Italian culture and identity. Italian products are more than food. They are a paradigm of territory, traditions and community.

Damages to consumers

Are consumers also affected? Naturally! The practice of counterfeiting derives from the exploitation of consumers' asymmetric information, which leads them to deceptively associate false practices with authentic products.

Counterfeit producers exploit consumers' poor information by producing a lower quality product, marketing it using the association with Italy, and with a price equal to the original one. Consumers are therefore unable to evaluate the authenticity of products due to the advertising and unclear information to which they are exposed.

How can you ensure that the Italian food or wine you are purchasing is authentically Italian?

How can I recognize an authentic Italian product when I go shopping? To ensure that what you are purchasing is, in fact, authentically Italian, here are some useful and practical tips to use:

Look for Designations of Origin through a series of seals placed on packages certified by the European Union. These include:

  • The PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) guarantees that the product is produced in a specific geographical area using traditional methods. For example, Grana Padano.
  • PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) identifies a product whose quality is linked to the geographical area in which it is produced. For example, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.
  • STG (Guaranteed Territorial Specialty) guarantees the geographical origin of the product and the controlled production process. For example, mozzarella.
  • DOC and DOCG (Controlled Designation of Origin and Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) define areas and methods of production of legitimate wine.

I hope this article was useful to you. Fine Taste works every day to guarantee true Italian excellence: artisanal products, high quality, connection with the territory and exquisite taste!

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