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Chinotto, Cedrata. Food frauds

Chinotto, Cedrata (citron drink). The most counterfeited beverages, paradoxically, are the most rooted in the Italian tradition. Frauds spread and controls are latent (LINK), in the name of impunity (LINK). We reviewed 16 products, half of which outlawed.

Chinotto, Citron. Mediterranean citrus fruit

Chinotto is a citrus, Citrus x myrtifolia, which vaguely recalls the bitter orange. According to some its origins are ancient Chinese. And it has been grown for some centuries in Italy and the surroundings. In Liguria (where there is also a Slow Food presidium, Chinotto di Savona) and Côte d’Azur (now France), Tuscany, but also Sicily and Calabria. Its small fruits are traditionally used in the production of jams, candied fruits and syrups. Chinotto juice is also used in some digestive and bitter drinks, as well as in the drink with the same name (also in Malta, where it is called kinni).

The Citron is another citrus, Citrus medica, which in turn belongs to the Citrus genus, the family of rutaceae. It looks like a large lemon – with a distinctive thick and rough peel – and it’s mainly grown in Calabria. As well as in other areas of the Mediterranean, up to the East from which it originates. It is eaten fresh, as well as in candied and syrup production, and also in several drinks.

Chinotto, Cedrata. Drinks and Tradition Rules

Chinotto, Cedrata – along with ginger and gazzosa (tonic water), orange soda and lemonade – echo to the memory of the Italians’ older generation the drinks called ‘spuma’ (aromatic soft drink). Water with carbon dioxide, some sugar, extracts or juices of several plants. In the days when the youth would play in the street, constantly moving. Light years away from today’s Play Station and canned diabetes (LINK).

What is left of the post-war drinks is the names, glimpses of joyful memories, and the regulations. The Italian Presidential Decree 19.5.58 n. 719 in particular. “Regulation for the hygienic rules for the production and trade of carbonated waters and for carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks packaged in closed containers”.

“Soft drinks sold under the name of a non-juice fruit, including citron and chinotto, or with the name of the plant” – prescribes the above mentioned regulation – “must be prepared with substances derived from the fruit or from the plant they refer to in their name. “(1)

Chinotto, Cedrata. Food fraud

The legal denomination of chinotto and cedrata, in accordance with the EU regulation 1169/11, is thus rooted in the national legislation referred to above. (2) It follows that the reference to chinotto and cedrata in the name of a soft drink cannot disregard the actual use of juice or parts or extracts of the plants concerned. The characteristic ingredients identify the drink and must be mentioned on the label, specifying their amount.

Food fraud however spreads. Consumers believe they are buying a traditional drink – like chinotto, or cedrata – with even the slightest amount of Mediterranean citrus fruit. While often they are  just getting sugary water with the addition of chemical flavorings. There are thus numerous commercial frauds, but no administrative or judicial authority has yet done anything to put an end to this.

The protection of  consumers and the reputation of traditional Made in Italy soft drinks is not only necessary but also urgent. The violated regulation, moreover, is the same that requires a minimum amount of orange juice in Italian aranciata (orange soda), subject to periodic debates between agricultural and industrial industries. So why relegate chinotto and citron to the “third class” of rights?

Chinotto, citron. True/False

We conducted a brief market survey, finding out how to a first group of virtuous beverages corresponds a second group of fakes. Chinotto, Cedrata are the most counterfeit drinks on the Italian market! Find the list below.


– Lurisia, ‘our Chinotto’, with ‘infusions of the Ligurian Riviera’s chinotto’. Other positive notes, the presence of lemon juice and cane sugar and especially the use of natural flavorings

– Baladin, an excellent Cedrata. Infused with Calabrian Diamond quality citrons, lemon juice and cane sugar

Chin8 Neri. To the iconic brand what matches is the citrus extract in the ingredients list. It goes without saying!

– Cedrata Tassoni. The drink with the oldest history is still made by the direct processing of Diamond quality citrons grown in Calabria. Hurray!

– Polara, ‘Chinotto of Sicily’ with natural extract of Sicilian chinottos. ‘Cedrata’ from an ancient Sicilian recipe with natural citrus medica extracts

– San Pellegrino (Nestlé), Chinò. The chinotto extract is listed in ingredients list. Compared to traditional craft drinks such as Lurisia, the use of various chemical additives must be noted

– Plos offers a Chinotto that actually contains the infusion. But the excess of additives, including preservatives, is a real pity

Bevo Vero. Spumadoro reserves this ‘no logo’ an authentic drink, infused with Savona’s citrus fruit and a list of exquisite ingredients. It is a pity to destroy the reputation of one’s own brand, as shown below


– Spumadoro. Granted the recipe is ‘original’, the ‘brand registered since 1888’, but in the Cedrata  there is no trace of the citrus

San Benedetto. The ‘Chinotto zero’ has the reputation of bringing  ‘100% cheerfulness’ that is almost mocking when there is a total absence of the product it is named after. The ‘Cedrata’ is another fake, 100% disappointing

San Pellegrino (Nestlé). the Cedrata drink only reports the presence of  ‘citrus natural flavoring with other natural flavorings’, a concept way different from the legal requirement

Schweppes moves on very thin ice with a citron drink that contains only the natural flavoring of the citron. Better than nothing, but not enough

– Carrefour, ‘Chinotto taste’. Only chemical additives (including sweeteners) added to water, sugar and fructose

– Crai. The ‘Chinotto’ is seen only in the name of the product, in the list of ingredients only artificial flavoring and a food color

– Easy Line, Fonte Ilaria SpA. Two references (Chinotto, Cedrata) without any trace of its fruits or plants.

Dario Dongo


(1) Presidential Decree 719/1958, article 5. The rule also stipulates that to such beverages “juices and natural and bitter flavoring and substances other than the fruit and the plant to which the name refers to can be added”

(2) See EU reg. 1169/11, article 17.1


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