Parmigiano Reggiano: counterfeits are worth one billion in the USA, the consortium appeals to the EU

The director Riccardo Deserti in Bruxelles. De Castro: there is room for growth by establishing clear and transparent TTTIP rules against the abuse of EU geographical labels.

Reggio Emilia, 16 July 2015 - "Europe has very considerable interests in the agri-food sector, with a surplus of 6 billion Euros, and it is clear that in these negotiations Italy – the European country with the highest number of PDO products – is deeply involved in the possible outcome, which must be supported with all actions."

These are the comments of Paolo De Castro - MEP and former President of the Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament - in the aftermath of the discussions in Bruxelles that included the director of the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano, Riccardo Deserti, who spoke to the European Commission in the context of the TTIP negotiations between the EU and the USA.

"Starting from these discussions - De Castro adds - we must take firm action to reach an ambitious and balanced result, because in the American market there is still great scope for increasing Italian and European exports, especially of high-quality products such as PDOs, and the TTIP must be the opportunity for stopping the use of misleading references to our labels and geographical origins.”

"The blatant deceptions of American consumers - said the director of the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano in Bruxelles - amount to nearly 100,000 tonnes a year where our product is concerned, a figure that is equal to 74% of the entire production of Parmigiano Reggiano and more than double the total of our exports, which totalled 44,500 tonnes in 2014, just under 6,600 of which to the USA".

"Defeating the "parmesan" denomination that appears on packaging displaying the colours of the Italian flag in different ways, and which therefore deceives consumers regarding the origin of the product and damage Italian producers would open up extraordinary prospects: not just because the demand for Parmigiano Reggiano on the American market is very high thanks to its craftsmanship and absolute naturalness, characteristics which are much appreciated in the United States, but even more so because of the agreements that we continue to strengthen and create with the major American retail chains.

"Based on the average prices of authentic Parmigiano Reggiano as it leaves Italy, the "fake" Parmigiano Reggiano market is potentially worth almost a billion Euros, and while it is evident that many of those products are be generic "parmesans" permitted in the United States, it is just as clear what kind of potential we are speaking of regarding our exports".

As Deserti said to the European Commission in Bruxelles: "The problems, opportunities and effects of the fight against counterfeits are not, however, just a question of figures and markets. Two extremely serious, underlying considerations must weigh on the negotiations with the USA: unfair competition and deception to the detriment of consumers."

As an illustration of this point, Deserti reminded the Commission in Bruxelles that only a few days ago the American health authority (FDA) ordered the withdrawal from the USA market of about 15,000 kilos of "parmesan" because it did not state on the label the presence of the additive lysozyme, an allergen derived from eggs that is absolutely forbidden in the production of Parmigiano Reggiano.