Written by Harry Porter
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Topics: Italy, Europe

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

image for Italian Pasta Ban Hits Europe!
Spaghetti may be off the menu soon and replaced with 'pasta laces'.

A bitter row in Brussels over crop subsidies has seen Italy slap an immediate ban on pasta exports to its EU partners.

And it really does look like the spaghetti has hit the fan with restaurant owners.

This is only the second time the Italian government has resorted to the measure, with 1965's six-month ban still the source of much bitterness in Europe when restaurant closures ran into treble figures

Under the initial 1963 Common Market agreement, and the European Trade Descriptions Act the following year, self-proclaimed 'Italian' restaurants are legally-bound to only use pasta manufactured in Italy.

Despite the fact that many such eateries across Western Europe are actually run by Poles adopting the name Giacomo, the pasta must be authentic - if there is an Italian theme.

This means overt images of Italy, the national flag, background music by Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin and, of course, the menu itself.

Without genuine Italian-made pasta, Lasagne must be called ‘ground beef pasta and cheese bake'; similar rulings cover a whole spectrum of ‘traditional' dishes.

While it may seem an almost impossible ruling to police, the Italian body responsible for the governance of pasta exports, Denominazione di Origine Pasta Controllata (DOPC), has been remarkably successful.

Several high-profile court cases have served as constant reminder that the DOPC is not unwilling to use the full force of the law when it needs to.

The most recent headline incident was the Vini & Olii trial in Antwerp in 1999 which resulted in the restaurant's closure and owner's imprisonment after he was convicted of using Canadian-made pasta in his popular rabbit dish, Tortelli al Coniglio.

Now restaurateurs across Europe will be putting pressure on their Euro-MPs to reach some compromise with the Italians and avert the looming crisis.

The EU has agreed to cut subsidies to farmers to a new common level. This will particularly hit the Italian flour producers who have enjoyed exceptionally high levels of Governmental support.

Giovanni Doriano, president of the Italian Restaurant Society (IRS) of Portugal, this year's ruling group from the Europe-wide IRS, has already filed a petition with the EC's legislature in Strasbourg.

Demanding an urgent debate on the subsidy cut, Mr Doriano said: "Anything that undermines Italian food is bad for our culture and bad for our health.

"This ban could result in thousands of diners being forced into the twilight world of junk and fast food; they may never return."

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