Parma has ruled out hosting the new EU food safety agency jointly with another city, its provincial government chief said this week, dismissing ideas it could share the prize with Finland's Helsinki.
Finnish media reported that Italy had suggested dividing the EU food safety body between front-runners Parma and Helsinki to end a row over which city should get it.
They said Italian diplomats had suggested the Finnish capital could advise on food crises while Parma, the northern Italy home of renowned delicacies, carried out food research.
But Italian and Finnish officials said they knew of no formal proposal from Italy.
Finland, Italy, Spain and France have all offered to host the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), but EU leaders have so far failed to resolve the politically thorny issue.
"The food safety agency should be a whole entity, and Parma is the best qualified city because it has an important food industry as well as scientific and research facilities," Andrea Borri, who spearheads Parma's candidacy, told Reuters.
Helsinki's bid was driven by the fact that Finland did not currently host any EU agency, the provincial government president added.
The EFSA, being set up temporarily in Brussels, will use scientists to assess food risks to try to restore consumer confidence shattered by recent European scares such as mad cow disease and dioxin in animal feed.
Finland also shot down suggestions the controversial authority be divided.
"I cannot see how the food safety authority could be split," Veli-Pekka Talvela, director-general for international affairs at Finland's Ministry of Agriculture, told Reuters in Helsinki.He said food crisis and quality tasks were inseparable.
Borri said Parma, home of prosciutto ham, was the best city to host the agency because it had a long-established food industry, research facilities including a scientific institute and university, and excellent transport and infrastructure.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently stepped in to champion Parma and triggered a war of words when he questioned Finland's culinary qualifications.
He said at a recent EU summit the agency couldn't go to Finland because "The Finns don't even know what prosciutto is."
Finland's largest daily newspaper responded with a full-page ad saying "Prosciutto is ham" with text underneath reading: "Now 1.2 million Finns know this. Is that enough for Berlusconi?"