Rome - When you speak with those who carry out the food inspections, the answer is always the same: if the product is Italian you can be sure. Of course, there is always an exception, one finds producers who do things that are wrong, but it is precisely that, an exception to the rule. Luigi Cortellessa, the commander of the Carabinieri’s Safeguarding European Community Regulations and Agri-Food Anti-Fraud Section, is convinced of that: “In Italy there are inspections that have no equal in any other country in the world. Italy’s agri-food industries are healthy for our bodies,” he said. From the beginning of 2017, the NACs, or Carabinieri Anti-Fraud Sections, seized over two million unsafe eggs, that is those which cannot be traced, or which have a false Italian origin, if they in fact come from abroad: “Italian consumers have no reason for concern because we are carrying out continual inspections of food safety and we are able to supervise the correct traceability of food products, in particular of eggs,” Cortellessa stated. The last seizure of 18,500 eggs was on 4 August, in the province of Naples. In short, the matter is receiving too much attention: “When we found out what was happening abroad, we reassured everyone that we had started inspections months earlier,” Colonel Cortellessa insisted. The eggs are considered a maximally intrusive product. In fact, Italy is not only one of the largest producers after France and Spain, but it is also one of the largest consumers of eggs. Every day 36.5 million are consumed in Italy. And every Italian eats 257 per year, both in fresh products and in sweets and prepared foods. Eggs are also a highly inspected product: “National provenance is clearly visible because of the “IT” mark stamped on their shells,” the Food Safety Directorate of the Ministry of Health pointed out. The information on the shell provides all the information, it is a sort of identity card on the product. But according to Coldiretti, it’s not enough: “We must improve its visibility, four codes and a date on the shell are no longer sufficient, the origins of these products must be written clearly on packaging and on egg cartons, and we must make as much information as possible available to consumers.” And not just for eggs. Problems concerning food affect all “Made in Italy” producers, from wine, to mozzarella to Parmigiano cheese. But these are also super-inspected products.
According to the 2016 report of the National Integrated Plan (PNI) for Food Safety, a tool that was created to protect and ensure consumer health, the ASLs, though the Food Hygiene and Veterinary Hygiene Departments, inspected over 275,000 production facilities, pieces of equipment and transport vehicles in 2016, and found of 54,000 violations. Then the laboratories carried out just under 99,000 tests on almost 40,000 samples of food, drink and food contact materials: only 931 of these were illegal, less than 0.25% of the total. In terms of research into the residue in food of animal origin and honey, the tests of over 41,000 samples identified only 49 contaminated products, or a percentage of 0.12%. The Carabinieri from the NAS carried out more than 33,000 food safety inspections in 2016, and identified 11,000 irregularities.
The Anti-Fraud Section of the Ministry for Agricultural Policy, on the other hand, carried out more than 21,000 inspections on over 12,000 operators in the agri-food sector and 30,000 products.