Foreign food imports to Italy hit a new record in 2023, reaching 65 billion euros, a 5 percent increase over the previous year. Many of these products come from countries with lower food, environmental and labor safety standards than Italy.

This increase in imports has caused a significant contraction in domestic agricultural production. For example, Italy now produces only a fraction of the grain, meat and other agricultural products it needs. At present, we are at 36 percent of soft wheat, 53 percent of corn, 51 percent of beef, 56 percent of durum wheat for pasta, 73 percent of barley, 63 percent of pork and cured meats, 49 percent of goat and sheep meat, while for milk and cheese we are at 84 percent self-supply. (*)

Imports of wheat, mainly from Canada, Russia, and Turkey, have particularly increased, but imports of foreign fruits and vegetables have also shown a significant increase, with a veritable invasion of produce mainly from France, Germany, and Egypt. The latter, for example, more than doubled its potato exports to Italy.

Food and drinks from abroad turn out to be more than ten times more dangerous than those produced in Italy. According to data from the latest Report published by Efsa, the number of agri-food products with irregular chemical residues above legal limits was 6.4 percent in imported products, compared to an average of 0.6 percent in samples of domestic origin.

Maxi seizures are the order of the day, such as the one that took place at the port of Pozzallo, in the Ragusano region, where the Regional Agri-food Operational Unit Sicily (Noras) intervened on a three-thousand-ton load of wheat from a ship coming from Port-La Nouvelle, France, other controls in Catania where a seizure of almost 900 kilograms of fruit and vegetables was made. And again, wheat transported from a Panamanian-flagged ship docked at the port of Manfredonia (FG), containing 35,000 tons of officially Greek wheat. Analyzed the samples revealed a high value (40 percent above the maximum parameter) of aflatoxin B1. Aflatoxins are mycotoxins of fungal origin that thrive in hot and humid environments, detected with increasing frequency in foods consumed in the European Union. They are harmful to health in terms of genotoxicity and carcinogenicity.

Complying with food safety requirements, means ensuring the hygienic and sanitary quality of food, making the production process safe and thus preventing risks related to the outbreak of pandemics, allergic reactions and serious diseases to the body.

Mandatory requirements on food hygiene are defined within horizontal and vertical regulations, i.e., referring to the food sector in general and to the individual type of food. These regulations regulate the activities of all those involved in the food supply chain: from farmers and breeders, to sales and brokerage companies.

Therefore, one of the main issues to be addressed when talking about safe food is that of controls and certifications of authenticity and quality.

Since 2019, ITA0039 by Asacert and Coldiretti have been collaborating to strengthen initiatives for the defense and enhancement of Italian agricultural and food excellence, produced strictly in Italy and according to maximum quality and safety standards, so that Made in Italy continues to be in the world synonymous with taste and wholesomeness.

*Coldiretti data