Russia’s Italian rip-offs offend at World Expo

The Italian farmers association Coldiretti has warned of a growing number of counterfeit Italian goods in Russia after a fake Italian cheese was discovered in the Russian pavilion at the World Expo.

Russia's Italian rip-offs offend at World Expo
The offending cheese on display in the Russian Pavilion at the World Expo in Milan. Photo: Coldiretti

The cheese, which takes its name from the Italian word ‘Prego’ and is even adorned with an Italian flag, claims to be “Italian style” and from an “original Italian recipe”, despite having no connection with Italy.

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According to Coldiretti, it's just one of the countless examples of fake Italian goods that are produced in Russia.

Last August the Russian government enforced a year-long ban on most Italian exports in response to sanctions against Moscow over the Ukrainian conflict, causing a surge in the production of fake Italian goods, Coldiretti said. 

“Stopping imports from Italy has caused a real boom in Russia in the local production of counterfeit Made in Italy products,” the organization said on Wednesday, “from cured meats to cheese, with Russian dairy production of cheese registering a surprising increase of 30 percent in the first four months of 2015, including imitations of mozzarella, robiola and parmesan.”

The ban, which applies to food imports across the European Union, the US, Canada, Norway and Australia, has now been extended for another year, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

As a result of the ban, there has been a 30.6 percent drop in Italian exports to Russia, costing Italy an estimated €20 million, according to Coldiretti.

As well as the economic damage, the association also complained of “indirect damages due tot he loss of image and market”.

According to recent figures from the National Institute for Foreign Trade, Russia has one of the highest numbers of fake Italian goods in the world, with over 1,500 fake Italian brands in Moscow alone.   

The production and sale of fake Italian goods worldwide is a big problem for Italy, with online sales of rip-off parmesan cheese alone estimated to cost Italy €60 million last year, according to the Ministry of Food, Forestry and Agriculture.

The ministry is now working alongside online marketplaces, including Ebay and Alibaba, to ensure counterfeit versions of Italian produce protected by EU food quality labels, such as DoP, IGP and STG, are not being sold on their platforms.

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