Consum-actors

Milk sounding, the floor to the Italian Antitrust authority

milk-sounding-la-parola-all-antitrust

Milk sounding, the lies on milk notified to the Italian Antitrust authority

The Milk Sounding phenomenon, meaning the deceitful reference to milk on labels and advertisements, has been reported to the Italian Antitrust authority by Great Italian Food Trade.

The cases reported on November 3, 2017 are five: Galatine candiesInalpi melted cheese ‘Fettine di Latte’ (‘Milk Slices’)Sangemini mineral water, Morato bread-milk rolls and also Conad labeled bread.

The Antitrust, Italian Competition Authority (‘Autorità Garante per il Mercato e la Concorrenza’, AGMC), has the task – amongst others – of independently guaranteeing consumer safety and protection, in accordance with the Consumer Code (1). 

The Authority, over the past years, has assessed the accuracy and sanctioned – wherever the case – the deceitful advertising and the unfair commercial practices of some major operators. In the various contexts of production of goods and provision of services, from foodstuffs to air travel.

What is Milk Sounding

The serious cases of milk sounding reported to the AGMC (Italian Competition Authority) – two of which have been also reported to the IAP (Self-regulation Advertising Council) – are characterized by their misleading labels and advertisements in evoking milk and its nutritional value. 

Consumers are confused by literal and visual references to an ingredient that is however missing in the five reported products. Given that in the candy industry, as well as in the melted cheese and the baked goods industries involved, fresh pasteurized milk is nowhere to be seen. 

Concentrated and/or powdered milk instead, that with the original raw material have little to do – in its nutritional and organoleptic properties – derive from an invasive process of transformation which alters its nature. Mineral water, in its turn, cannot be compared to milk, for reasons of law and logic. Although it has happened. (!)

Reality falls far from the paradigm shift of commercial communication displayed on the various foodstuffs, and censorship is therefore asked. This requires the Italian Competition Authority to recall the need for loyal and fair commercial practices, always bound by clarity and transparency in the message. Even more so in a historical time such as the present, where confusion about the role and nutritional value of every food may lead to purchasing and consumption choices which are not compatible with public health concerns. With severe consequences to a balanced diet that both private and public entities are trying to promote.

A general comment shall be added, the need to identify products to their significance and real value. Shunned from fake coined phrases that twist reality, abusing consumers’ faith towards means of communication to which they are inevitably exposed in daily life. A faith that the Competition Authorities have the primary duty to protect, as we hope the Italian one will do even in these cases.

A ruling by the Antitrust (Italian Antitrust authority) is keenly awaited, also by consumers association s, pending a unanimous orientation on the fairness of the appeals to various categories of traditional foods. To this end the EU Court of Justice passed judgment, in asserting the illegality of the so-called Cheese sounding.(2) The European Parliament also worked promptly to curb the phenomenon of the so-called Meat sounding.

The time has come to shed some light once and for all!
Dario Dongo

Notes 

(1) Italian Legislative Decree No. 206/05, implementation of the directive 29/2005/CE

(2) For details, and for the text of the judgment  14.6.2017, see article


About the author

Dario Dongo

Dario Dongo

Dario Dongo, avvocato e giornalista, PhD in diritto alimentare internazionale, fondatore di WIISE (FARE - GIFT – Food Times) e cofondatore del Fatto Alimentare.