Italy Alleges the U.S. Could Be Sending Counterfeit Pasta to the U.K.

·3 min read

Earlier this year, Coldiretti, Italy's national farmers' association, reported that exports of Made in Italy products to the United Kingdom fell by 40 percent in the first two months following Brexit. The products that were affected by the U.K. removing itself from the European Union included food, appliances, clothing, machinery, metals, and "means of transport."

At the time, Coldiretti warned that the trade-related complications from Brexit endangered the agri-food products that would've normally been shipped from Italy into the U.K., including wine and prosecco, tomato products, pasta, cured meats, olive oil, and cheeses like Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Dried penne pasta spills out of a jar
Dried penne pasta spills out of a jar

Aleksandr Zubkov / Getty Images

Coldiretti seems to have crunched its numbers again and has since reported that the amount of pasta imported from Italy into the U.K. fell by 28 percent during the first five months post-Brexit, while extra virgin olive oil imports are down 13 percent, and tomato sauce has dropped by 16 percent during the same time period. "With Brexit, the British also abandon the Mediterranean diet," the agency harrumphed in a statement.

The agency continued, writing that Brexit-related backups at the U.K. borders, delays caused by a shortage of truck drivers, customs concerns, and other complications are jeopardizing €3.4 billion ($4 billion) worth of Made in Italy food exports. Before Brexit, the U.K. was Italy's fourth-largest trade partner for food and drink, following only Germany, France, and the United States.

And speaking of the United States, Coldiretti has some issues with us, too. Without real Made in Italy products on British shelves, the agency worries that the market will be flooded with counterfeit versions of everything from wines to cheeses. Coldiretti warned that the U.K. could become a "Trojan horse" for the arrival of fake Italian foods, and apparently the U.S. is "among the major counterfeiters" of these products.

"The British need to watch out for Italian oil and parmesan with an Italian flag on the label which actually comes from America," Lorenzo Bazzana, Coldiretti's economic officer, told The Times. "Produce pretending to be Italian is worth €100 billion in sales a year globally, double the real food and drink coming from Italy [...] Before Brexit we could ask the U.K. to crack down on fake Italian foods but now it is out of the EU we cannot, hence our fear things could turn for the worse there."

In July, Coldiretti lamented that the U.K.'s Prosecco imports fell by nine percent during the first quarter of this year; as a result, the U.K. is now Italy's second-largest importer of the sparkling wine, right behind the U.S.

On the bright side, the U.K. hasn't had any issues — yet! — when it comes to importing beans from the U.S. to supply the gigantic Heinz factory in Wigan. If Heinz Beans vanished from supermarket shelves, then British shoppers would really have a problem.