Italy proposes new laws to fight food fraud

The Italian Council of Ministers has approved new legislation that it says would help crack down on the country’s big problem with agriculture and food fraud.

The bill introduced tougher criminal penalties for “agribusiness piracy” crimes, such as selling products as made in Italy when they are not, falsely claiming foods are organic or outright counterfeiting. The new penalties apply to those who “produce, transform, package, distribute, sell or profit from” fraudulent agricultural products such as extra virgin olive oil.

It is an illicit trade that Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova says costs the country €100bn a year, while the total value of Italian agri-business exports is close to €42bn. New figures from Italian farming organisation Coldiretti suggest the turnover of the 'agri-mafia' is now estimated at €24.5bn per year, affecting the entire food supply chain from farm to table.

Organised crime influences the agri-food market by establishing the prices of crops, managing transport and sorting, controlling entire supermarket chains, selling false Made in Italy products, and even developing retail networks from scratch, it says.

Farmers are underpaid for fruits and vegetables – often the prices commanded do not even cover production costs – but increase up to 300 per cent "due to the monopolistic control of the markets operated by the underworld" in some Italian regions.

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