Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, it's time to take action to protect our PDOs
Last week we intercepted a fake Grana (1) of Hungarian origin packaged - with tricolor, Italian name and mustachioed man's style - by an industrial giant in Reggio Emilia, the Nuova Castelli SpA. In the same days, news of an ongoing investigation into a gigantic fraud relating to Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano PDO, against Nuova Castelli and two dairies controlled by it, emerged in the Emilian news. All in the hands of a British private equity fund, Charterhouse Capital Partners (3). In the general silence around the story, let's try to deepen some legal aspects.
'Registered names are protected against (…) any usurpation, imitation or evocation, even if the true origin of the goods or services is indicated or if the protected name is a translation (…); any other false or misleading indication relating to the provenance, origin, nature or essential qualities of the product used on the packaging or packaging, in advertising material or on documents relating to the product in question as well as the use, for packaging, of containers that could mislead as to its origin; any other practice that could mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product '(4). Ça va sans dir that in a piece of cheese with an appearance and name ('Gran' instead of 'Grana') almost identical to a Grana Padano PDO, vacuum-packed and placed on the shelf next to the authentic product, 'there is something that it does not work'.
Official public controls
The Central Inspectorate for the protection of quality and the repression of fraud is the technical body of the MiPAAF) in charge of carrying out, among others, the checks on products with Designation of Origin at the supply chain operators (producers, preparers and importers as well as marketing)'. 'Controls are carried out throughout the year at all stages of the supply chain. The controls mainly concern processing and trade. The checks are preceded by consultation of the lists of operators operating in the production of protected origin '(5). In the present case, the checks were effective for packaging companies (6), but not so effective on the points of sale, as can be seen from the presence of the 'Gran di Vittorio' in the refrigerated counters of LD-MD Discount.
Duties of the Consortia of Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano
The protection consortia, which the EU regulation defines as Groups, 'play a fundamental role (...) to develop activities related to the surveillance of the effective protection of registered names, the conformity of production with the relevant regulations, information and promotion of registered name and, in general, any activity aimed at increasing the value of registered names and the effectiveness of quality schemes. In addition, groups should closely monitor the position of the products in the market. ' (7). Consortia are therefore recognized as having the power to 'help ensure that the quality, reputation and authenticity of their products are guaranteed on the market by monitoring the use of the name in commercial exchanges and, if necessary, informing the competent authorities' (8 ).
Unheard of voices
Well before Great Italian Food Trade's 'anti-fraud radar' intercepted a Magyar cheese disguised as Grana for sale at the 'discount', as far back as November 2013 Coldiretti had denounced the worsening of the phenomenon of imports of 'like grain' from the North -East European, recognizing specific suspicions about some operations of Nuova Castelli SpA: 'The mere fact that in recent years the import of imitation grain of Hungarian origin has grown (…) gives rise to many perplexities. The company that wants to build the mega-warehouse is Nuova Castelli itself, which holds 20% of the shares of the Cheese Company srl, the sole shareholder of the Hungarian Magyar Sajt which produces a cheese similar to Parmigiano Reggiano. It is a company in which the Itaca cooperative, chaired by Giuseppe Alai, president of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, resigned also following Coldiretti's complaint through a network of shares. '(9).
We can't wait any longer, it's time to turn the page. Outside the 'Gran' and 'Parmesella', who is behind us and who does not supervise the market, as is a duty both in Italy and in the rest of Europe (10).
(4) EU Reg. 1151/2012, article 13 (Protection)
(7) EU Reg. 1151/2012, recital 57
(8) EU Reg. 1151/2012, article 45 (Role of groups)
(10) And in all those non-EU countries that have recognized at least some of our PDOs in the context of bi- or multi-lateral agreements. As is the case of Grana Padano PDO in the People's Republic of China, which must be protected against the numerous imitations of both other European countries and the USA, Canada, Australia.