Italian food quality: DOP and IGP
The Italian food system presents some peculiarities that, in addition to determining a strength in terms of food quality and value, permits excellent safety levels to be guaranteed. Italy holds for this reason the hugest amount of DOP and IGP awards.
A first aspect concerns the presence of effective and well coordinated supply chains. A product is made “in the food chain” when all the actors involved in the production process are integrated and coordinated with each other: in this way an additional control, direct and complete, of agricultural and industrial production systems is possible on behalf of those who have product liability towards the market.
The purpose of the chain is to make transparent the relationship between the subjects involved in the production and processing of the final product, by developing a relationship of trust, with shared objectives between the parties involved.
An added value to the chain is to minimize risk by simplifying the control plans. Products relating to controlled supply chains allow a better comparison of data quality and food safety, generally more detailed than the minimum requirements of the law, better control of product standards with respect to the expectations of the consumer and greater recognition through dedicated brands. In Italy it is estimated that about half the beef and the pork are produced in the supply chain, while for poultry meat in the production chain is almost complete.
A second aspect concerns the presence of numerous products identified internationally as gastronomic excellences such as those protected by the geographical indication trademarks. The European Union protects the typicality of some food products through the recognition of DOP (Designation of Protected Origin) and IGP (Typical Geographic Indications). These designations, recognised throughout Europe, are awarded only to those high quality products whose production takes place in a defined geographical area, and for which there is a causal link between the geographical area and the quality or characteristics of the product and the characterising aspects of the production process.
In other words, the product should show a strong link to the territory, to whose name must be traced certain characteristics of the product itself. The function of these trademarks is threefold: to protect quality products from misuse and imitation; give consumers reliable informations about the products they purchase; contribute to the protection of rural areas, whose socio-economic system often depends on the development of typical agricultural food production and quality.
According to Istat, Italy holds the European record for the number of DOP and IGP awards, with more than 261 quality products recognised. Due to the international importance of these designations, the awarded products are subject to strict and specific controls, in addition to the routine checks laid down by European and national legislation.
In our country, the DOP and IGP products of the pig production chain are subject, as well as inspections of the National Health System, to the annual inspections at farms, slaughterhouses, processing plants, ham and cured meats companies, carried out by two independent institutions designated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
These organisations certify the quality of raw materials and in particular compliance with the rules of production materials: a system which guarantees the acquisition of high quality products, made according to traditional recipes. About a third of European DOP and IGP meat based products are Italian. In addition, the first 4 DOP Italian products for export volumes and market share belong to husbandry sectors: Parma ham, San Daniele ham, Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
The Sustainable Meat Project