Italy's food police bust Polish ham scam

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Accept no imitations: authentic Parma Ham. Photo: BMK
10:45 CEST+02:00
An illegal underground laboratory where cured meat from Poland was boned and re-labeled as Italian has been raided by police in Villaricca, near Naples.

Inside the bunker, police discovered an elaborate operation, where the Polish ham was repackaged and issued with counterfeit labels of Italian companies - including prestigious Parma ham producers.

Police confiscated an array of equipment used in the fraud such as fridges, knives, hair nets and work stations. It may sound like a professional operation - but according to police, the workshop was a veritable pigsty.

A 52-year-old and 54-year-old have been charged with food fraud and violating health and safety regulations governing public food, reported. The authorities are still trying to ascertain where the mislabled meat was distributed and sold.

This is just the latest high profile case of food fraud to rock Italy, and during a year in which the country is seeking to promote itself through its food at Expo Milan. Food fraud affects a wide range of Italian products, from cheese to wine and cured meats, and costs the Italian economy billions.

SEE MORE: How the grate parmesan scam costs Italy millions

“"The meat sector is very vulnerable",” the Italian farmers association, Coldiretti, told Il Mattino. “According to the Italian fraud squad (N.A.S), the value of seizures of fraudulent meat made in 2014 was equal to €€143.7 million.”

Italy raises eight million pigs a year, over 70 percent of which are used to make the 36 cured meats that carry EU quality labels such as DOP or IGP,– the production of which is worth €€20 billion a year to the Italian economy.

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Food fraud is a growing problem in Italy. 'Made in Italy' produce has acquired a reputation for quality and as such comes at a premium. This makes it an attractive prospect for fraudsters, who are always willing to tell a few porkies to make a quick buck.

It is clear a more sophisticated strategy is needed to combat food fraud and policy makers might consider looking at food labeling. At present, two out of every three ham products sold in Italy come from pigs raised in Denmark, France, Germany and Spain - without the need for this information to be clearly stated on the label.

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