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ITALY

Italy to pass new laws to fight €12 billion food waste

Italy is set to become the second country in Europe to pass laws combatting food waste - a problem which costs the economy €12 billion each year.

Italy to pass new laws to fight €12 billion food waste
Italy is set to pass new legislation to combat food waste.Photo: allispossible

The bill on food waste has been met with bipartisan support and is set to pass in Italy's lower house on Monday, before heading for final approval in the Senate.

Unlike the French, who introduced fines of up to €75,000 for supermarkets that waste food in February, Italian laws are seeking to use the carrot and not the stick.

 “Punishing wasters is not so helpful: this is all about encouraging donations,” Democratic Party MP, Maria Chiara Gadda, who presented the bill, told La Repubblica.

Currently, all Italian shops, bars, restaurants and food companies looking to give their excess food to charity must declare their donations in advance, making it a bureaucratic nightmare.

The new laws will mean companies need only fill out one monthly declaration noting all donations made, streamlining the process in a bid to stop edible food from rotting on the shelf and being thrown away.

To further encourage businesses to give away their excess, donors will get generous reductions in their rubbish taxes in line with how much they give away.

The bill contains 17 articles which also propose changes to food safety regulations, meaning products that have passed their 'best before' date can still be given away.

“We are making it more convenient for companies to donate than to waste,” said Italy's Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina.

MPs hope the laws will almost double the amount of food saved.

“We currently recover 550 million tonnes of excess food each year but we want to arrive at one billion in 2016,” Martina added.

Beyond encouraging charity, the government is also researching ways in which food can be better packaged, while trying to convince Italian diners to change their wasteful habits.

Some €1 million a year will be allocated to the development of food packaging over the next three years.

The cultural battle to combat food waste will be waged alongside another €1 million campaign to promote the use of doggy bags in restaurants – a scheme which was trialled in the Veneto region last year.
 

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FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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