- Jorge L. Esquirol, Credit Supports for Italian Specialty Products: The Case of Prosciutto and Long-Aged Cheese, 14 FIU L. Rev. 589 (2021).
- Tomaso Ferrando, Gangmastering Passata: Multi-Territoriality of the Food System and the Legal Construction of Cheap Labor Behind the Globalized Italian Tomato, 14 FIU L. Rev. 521 (2021).
- Helena Alviar García, Italian Coffee: Retelling the Story, 14 FIU L. Rev. 443 (2021).
- Michele Graziadei, The Making of an Iconic Cheese: Mozzarella Di Bufala Campana D.O.P., 14 FIU L. Rev. 615 (2021).
- Fernanda G. Nicola & Gino Scaccia, It’s All About the Pasta: Protectionism, Liberalization, and the Challenge for Quality and Sustainability of Made in Italy, 14 FIU L. Rev. 479 (2021).
In 2020, Jorge Esquirol organized a magnifico symposium, “Made in Italy: The Law of Food, Wine and Design,” dissecting the laws that support the “Made in Italy” branding for the country’s most valued and globally exported products: espresso, mozzarella, olive oil, Parmigiano, pasta, prosciutto, tomatoes, wine, as well as design and fashion. This jot focuses on food.
Was your mouth watering just reading this list? Perusing the volume will both deepen and question your appreciation for Italian foods. You will learn fascinating facts about their histories, cultural valence, production conditions, consumption patterns, and regulation. All humans eat and most participate in the global trade of food, yet foodways (eating and culinary practices) continue to be tied to personal, cultural, and national identities. The collection of articles contributes to the burgeoning scholarship on international and comparative food law. Jotwell does not usually publish reviews of symposia, but this compendium is most powerful when taken in its entirety. It is not any individual story of food, but it is the collection that is remarkable. Read as products of law, these foodstuffs raise deep and troubling issues of imperialism, unequal trade between North and South, labor exploitation, animal abuse, and environmental degradation.
For instance, if you thought of spaghetti as a symbol of dolce vita, you might reconsider after reading Fernanda Nicola and Gino Scaccia’s critical history of the regulation of pasta since the 1900s. The social importance of pasta in the Italian diet is such that it became a subject of legislation early on, including its composition, price, and conditions for import and export. But after Mussolini’s 1922 coup, fascist propaganda promoted pasta eating (before turning against it), launching a nativist “battle for grain” to make Italy self-sufficient in wheat.
Telling the story of how coffee exports became central to the Colombian economy in the twentieth century, Helena Alviar García scrutinizes the myth of “Italian” espresso. Positioned as an essential social ritual (and glorified as a harbinger of democracy), Italian coffee culture is also the result of colonialism, unequal global trade, and property regimes incentivizing land grabbing and deforestation. All coffee is imported to Italy and yet the global infatuation with gourmet and specialty coffee has benefitted Italy’s exports of roasted grains imported from Colombia, among other countries.
Italy may not grow coffee beans, but it is the second largest producer of tomatoes in the world after the United States. Turning to the interaction between spaces of legality and illegality in the branding of “Made in Italy,” Tommaso Ferrando focuses on trade law, competition law, and migration law. He points out the role of exploitative conditions of agricultural work (which sometimes approximate enslavement) and organized crime in the construction of the Italian passata (tomato sauce). Italy developed a criminal legal framework to address these violations, but it remains woefully underenforced, much like the global tomato chain ignores the migrant worker as an invisible, exploitable, and disposable means of production.
Michele Graziadei analyzes the role of intellectual property law in making mozzarella di bufala (buffalo milk mozzarella) an iconic cheese, one of the most beloved “Made-in-Italy” products. As key to this success, he emphasizes Italian and European geographical indication labels associating the product with a well-defined geographical area and a certified production method protecting it from competition. Analogously, Esquirol’s article shows that along with production norms, tax regimes, and other background rules, secured lending laws allowing specialty food products such as hams and cheeses to serve as collateral give a crucial edge to their producers. Meanwhile the farmed animals, the (often undocumented) migrant workers who milk and slaughter them, and their increasingly polluted environments are harmed by the lack of legal protections.
The contributors to this symposium do a terrific job of problematizing the idea that there is such a thing as “Italian” food, highlighting that a complex web of local, national, regional, and international laws and private ordering systems determine which foods are produced where and whether they will be considered “Italian.” Their intervention should be read as an invitation to conduct similar research projects on a wide range of foods and cuisines. In this spirit, I have written about French food Whiteness, that is, the use of food law and eating practices to reify and reinforce Whiteness as the dominant racial identity in France and elsewhere. Anyone interested in building the critique of French food through the lens of the law should consider this an open call for papers for a “Made in France” symposium to be held (why not?) in Paris when the health situation will allow it. In the meantime, bon appétit!