Seeing and savoring Italy requires a savvy traveler and a savvy shopper both in-country and when you get home. Not all products labeled Italian are Made in Italy. According to the Italian Food Board “food piracy or agro-piracy” is a major problem in the US, Canada, Argentina, Great Britain and other countries where counterfeit Italian products especially cheeses, salami, wines, oils, pastas, balsamic vinegar even peeled tomatoes are the most copied. They are sold as Italian with vaguely Italian sounding names (Milaneza vs Milanese) and labels but are not the local product or regional specialty from Italy. The taste and substance often have very little in common with the original product. Be aware of what you’re getting and what you’re paying for. The quality of authentic Italian ingredients are far superior and your purchase supports Italy’s food business and helps to ensure that the traditional flavors of Italy are preserved and protected.
One of the most egregious examples of counterfeit food is olive oil, especially extra virgin. True extra virgin Italian olive oil is expensive to sell in the U.S. and the world market. True extra virgin Italian olive oil comes from ancient tree stock. Cultivated, hand-picked and net harvested the olives are processed with 24 hours. Processing temperatures are monitored and no chemical solvents are used to extract the oil. The flavor, aroma and heart-healthy compounds found in extra virgin olive oil make it a superior product that elevates everything it touches.
But because of the labor intensive methods of growing, picking and processing; some oil companies will bring in oil from different parts of Europe package it in Italy and call it “Made in Italy”. But bottled or packaged in Italy doesn’t mean the same as cultivated and grown. It’s important to look at the origin of the oil not just where it’s bottled. Avoiding fakes comes down largely to being an informed shopper and buying from trustworthy sources.
You do have a choice about what you buy and who you agri-support. If you choose to buy an “imitation” so be it. Just don’t call it “Made in Italy”.