SALERNO - A great amount of capital is invested in agriculture and gains juicy but illegal returns. Nearly one in three 'Made in Italy'-labeled goods sold in Italy or exported elsewhere are produced with non-Italian products.
The first chapter of the investigation uncovers how the British supermarket ASDA sold 200,000 cans of double concentrated tomato puree of Chinese origin labelled 'Made in Italy'.
A common practice for canners in Southern Italy is to import huge quantities of Chinese triple concentrate and then just add water and salt, pasteurise it and can it as "Italian" double concentrate of tomato.
Under the EU legislation, it would be perfectly legal to label Chinese tomato puree as Italian if it undergoes substantial processing, e.g. the adding of ingredients like olives etc. However, the simple adding of water and salt is not considered substantial processing (water is not to be considered an ingredient) and thus the above-mentioned practice is not legal within this framework.
This 'minimal processing' practice has resulted in a conviction in the first instance towards Antonino Russo, CEO of A.R. Industrie Alimentari (ARIA) in March 2012. However, Russo, the "tomato king" of Southern Italy, has appealed, believing he had all rights to label his products as 'Made in Italy' since he did process them.
Russo manages the biggest cannery of Europe (ARIA) which is the British market main supplier. It was in fact A.R., through Princes Ltd, the big UK food producer, to sell the lots containing Chinese puree to ASDA. Today Princes is not an intermediary anymore. It controls major stakes of PIA (Princes Industrie Alimentari), a company created together with Russo in order to manage the huge cannery plant of Santa Incoronata, in Apulia.
- 'Pulp fiction: Asda's 'made in Italy' tomato puree hails from China' (EN) (The Guardian, 27 February 2013)
- 'Asda’s ‘made in Italy’ tomato puree hails from China' (EN) (www.irpi.eu, 28 February 2013)
- 'Pulp Fiction: Chinese tomatoes for Italian tomato puree' (EN) (France 24, 28 February 2013)
- 'La cricca dell’olio poco extravergine arriva in tribunale' (IT) (www.irpi.eu, 1 June 2013)
- 'The green gold rush' (EN) (www.irpi.eu, 2 June 2013)
- 'Olio, extravergine con miscele e “correzioni”. E la forte tentazione della truffa' (IT) (Il Fatto Quotidiano, 3 June 2013)