Mafia grip on Italian food sector putting industry at risk, report

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food sector, Italian cuisine

Mafia involvement in the Italian food industry is rife, with revenue from the agriculture and food sector generating 5.6% of the entire organised crime business in the country, finds a new parliamentary report.

The study, prepared by the Italian parliamentary commission of inquiry and released at the end of last week, concludes that the food sector is worth €12.5bn to criminal groups, who are undercutting prices paid to producers, and boosting trade in counterfeit Italian foodstuffs.

The report was informed by hearings over a 12 month period from prominent food industry stakeholders such as the directors of the buffalo mozzarella and balsamic vinegar trade associations.

The parliamentary inquiry, which concluded that organized crime has entered into every aspect of food supply chain from production to transport to supermarkets, also heard from the national anti-Mafia prosecutor, Dr Pietro Grasso and, Sergio Marini, the president of Italy’s biggest farmers’ group, Coldiretti.

Price control

Coldiretti claims the safety and perceived standard of Italian food is “at risk” due to products such as olive oil and cheese being "passed off" as being of Italian orgin and branded 'made in Italy', but in fact obtained with cheaper, imported raw materials often of dubious quality.

The agricultural organisation claims farmers’ incomes are being hit and Italian consumers are being overcharged due to the fact that these criminal groups are dictating producer and retail prices.

“The prices of fruit from field to table even triple due to the infiltration of the underworld in the transport business,”​ said Coldiretti, in an emailed statement to FoodNavigator.com.

And Mafia investigator Grasso is calling for legislation to be amended to ensure organised crime’s control on the Italian agri-food industry is curtailed.

The parliamentary report calls for greater collaboration among international authorities to control trade in counterfeit goods and also urges more training of all the national bodies involved to hinder the manufacture of fradulent goods as well as co-operation between the Italian civil and criminal court system in this regard.

In 2008, the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) found that a number of Italian companies had been manufacturing industrial butter using animal fats and synthetic materials to then be sold on to member states.

Related topics: Policy

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