In food we trust

May 25, 2020

Origin of produce is very important for the common Italian, who as a rule of thumb will always prefer to buy local or regional products, even if it’s in the supermarket. And Italy, like any other country member in the EU, is very serious about identifying the products that are produced in its territory, and especially its food products.

The EU started to identify products as unique and typical in 1992, and as for the end of 2019, Italy stands high above all other European countries in the number of products that are identified as typical and particular to the area or method of production. The marks have some levels that specify whether the product as a whole – ingredients and method – come from a specific area, is it only the method that’s typical but the ingredients come from outside of the area or is the product only resembles the traditional and typical one. While Italy has 300 food products and 524 wines and spirits registered, France stands second with around 20%-25% less. That’s a big difference.

You can find the lists in these two databases:

Door (Database Of Origin and Registration) for food products,

E-Bacchus for wines and spirits.

 

Since Italy is very serious about marking its products it’s also very serious about verifying that none of them are forged, which could hurt the producers from several angles:

  1. Making them not unique (while this is the whole point),

  2. Fake product is usually inferior to the original, which will hit the good name of the producers,

  3. In the case of health hazards, this could cause a terminal hit to the producers and product.

It’s not about counterfeiting by the producers themselves – but counterfeiting done by unregistered and unauthorized producers in Italy and outside of it. Italy suffers systematically from agriculture-related crimes. According to Coldiretti, the biggest agriculture consortium in Italy, the numbers of such “Agro-mafia” reach to 18 billion euros annually out of almost 70 billion euros of the whole Italian counterfeiting “industry”).

 

In order to help the consumer identifying original products, the Italian State Mint - or Zecca (IPZS, Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato) under the Ministry of Economy, developed two mobile apps: Trust your Food and Trust your Wine. The apps connect directly to the database of registered products and will assure if what’s in front of you is the real deal. The Zecca holds the sole legal right to print these labels of originality.

The apps work by QR code scan, typing a 12 digits code or voice dictating (in Italian…) If the code matches the one which appears in the Zecca’s database you will see a verification code and lots of other info about the product, the producer and the region it’s typical of.

Another nice thing about these apps that at least according to the Zecca’s statement in the apps store no private info is collected, but only gives access to the products’ database. Living in Italy for a while and having the need to hand over my details to almost any institution – that’s a major thing!

 

After checking it thoroughly in the supermarket (and thank you wonderful V. for your patience), I can say that for now, the wine app works much better than the food one, supports all the input methods and its database is much richer. Here is an example of chocolate bar from Modica in Sicily, the only chocolate on the European protected products list, with screenshots from the Trust Your Food app validating it as an original:

 

Following my question, head of development of Trust Your Food app answered that for now indeed the app supports only the chocolate data, but they’re enriching the database with Modena balsamic vinegar list, so it’s all a matter of time.

Besides these apps, there are also private initiatives that provide info regarding the source of food we eat, whether fighting counterfeiting or as part of the trend of culinary awareness. To name only one – Italian as well – is Foodchain that works with the Piemontese ice cream artisan Alberto Marchetti, or in other words – I cannot wait already to try Blockchain ice cream.

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