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Italy: Petti company operations under investigation

03/05/2021 - Press release , François-Xavier Branthôme
Seized products reported to be of foreign origin: facts and comments

According to the Italian press, a major haul of tomato products was reportedly seized end of April in the premises of 
 Italian Food Spa (Petti group). Incriminated products are said to be “non-European products sold as being 100% Italian”, according to investigators.

It seems that more than 4,000 tonnes of finished and semifinished products were seized in the context of an operation entitled “Scarlatto” carried out by the Carabinieri from the Food Protection Bureau in the context of an inquiry for commercial fraud coordinated by the prosecution office of Livorno. The inquiry, which has been ongoing for several weeks, intends to determine whether the Petti company really did “sell products labeled as ‘100% Italian’ or ‘100% Tuscan’, whereas they may have been in reality manufactured from a mix of products made from local raw materials and foreign (non-European) materials.

The terms of the press release published by the Carabinieri in the context of the action jointly carried out with the Italian Customs Agency mention “the fraudulent production and marketing of tomato products – mainly tomato passata of different types and in different formats bearing the company’s brand – falsely labeled as containing ‘100% Italian tomatoes’ and/or ‘100% Tuscany tomatoes’, intended for large chain retail outlets.” In addition to the products themselves, accounting and administrative documents as well as laboratory reports have also been seized. 

Explanations put forward by the Petti Group
In a letter sent to its customers and suppliers, the Italian Food Spa – Petti Group has defended itself against any accusation of fraudulently producing or marketing tomato products. A statement published in the press explains that “the Italian Food Spa company will be presenting in the coming days even more detailed and complete documentation to demonstrate the traceability of the semifinished products that have come under scrutiny, and will consequently request that the goods be released.” The press release goes on to state that the company intends to clarify all aspects of this affair with the authorities, “because semifinished industrial pack products of foreign origins, which are stored in warehouses along with Tuscan and Italian products, are regularly used for conditioning third-party brand products intended for export outside of Italy, as is regularly the case with other companies of the canned foods sector.

ANICAV: the official position
The news that these goods have been seized has also been commented by the Anicav, the national Association of canned vegetable industries, which declared in a statement: 
« Regarding the investigations launched by the Italian police for the Protection of Agri-food in the province of Livorno, which involved the Petti Group and some of its managers, we are absolutely certain that the investigators will be able to clarify as soon as possible what is actually happened in this matter, also to avoid speculations that often have jeopardized the image of an important sector for the Italian agri-food chain. In the meantime, we can only place the same confidence in the company involved, hoping that it might, for its part, clarify its position and allay any doubts about its work.

The Association repeat its total commitment to maximum transparency for the consumers’ protection, as shown over the years also by the positions taken in support of the introduction of mandatory origin labeling for all tomato products, which has made mandatory what our companies already do voluntarily and will continue to do by indicating on the label the Italian origin of the tomato

Some complementary data:
The regulation in Italy introduced by DM 16/11/2017 provide the rule for indication of the origin of the tomatoes for all tomato preserves and for tomato sauces with more than 50% of tomato in the composition (see further details in attached documents).
For tomato in bulk the rules are those foreseen in the EU Reg 1169/2011 art 8

At EU level, the Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) entered into force on 1 April 2020 (EU regulation 775/2018). The regulation introduced the obligation to indicate on the label the origin of the primary ingredient if it does not coincide with the origin of the product - or with the country where the last transformation took place, if these are made explicit through words, symbols or drawings.

According to the rules, a fig jam that bears the Italian flag, but is made with figs from Turkey, must specify the origin of the latter on the label. This is because what is indicated on the product could be misleading, creating confusion where there shouldn't be any.

At European level the retailers do not mention any origin neither the factory of production
for their private label brand, but only the legal address of the company owner of the brand. In this case there is not any obligation to indicate the country of origin of the raw material.

Source: Italian press, ANICAV

Further details in the attached document:
Gazzetta Ufficiale Rep Italiana origine del pomodoro
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