Is it possible to modernize the concept of food quality and show the value of traditional products? It might seem to be a paradox but if we extend the idea of a product’s hygienic quality—its safety and nutritional properties—to include the presence of undesirable and harmful substances (heavy metals, pesticides, dioxin and other similar “delights”) and factors that protect health (unsaturated fats, polyphenols, useful bacteria and so on), we can see that traditional products— traditional through their identity and their production methods—are best at meeting the latest quality criteria.
It is essential that there is certainty about the origin of a food product, that it comes from a quality location, and it is supported by the producers, who maintain the culture and art of good agricultural practices.
A flavorsome diet can also be healthy: instead of demonizing this or that food according to the dictates of the food fashions of the moment, we should focus attention on the quantity of food we eat, without preconceived ideas. You can in fact eat any of the wide range of available food products and there isn’t a single one—if it is of agricultural origin and not chemical or industrial—that is in itself “bad for you”. The problem is how much of it we eat and what else we eat.
By the way, did you know that caviar has four times as much cholesterol as milk and beef, which in turn have less than chicken and more than pork, which has as much as tuna and rabbit? Who knows how much good food has been removed from people’s diets in the name of “nutritional edicts” which prescribe “light foods”, probably containing preservatives, hydrogenated fats and artificial flavorings.
If we adopt these more modern evaluation criteria, then consumers need more information so they are free to choose foods which have a certificated identity and we can know they are good, clean and fair. What about it? Shouldn’t we be improving the quality of our lives?
Ugo Ciavattella is President of the Consortium for the Protection of Farindola Pecorino Cheese
First printed in La Stampa on September 15, 2007
Adapted by Ronnie Richards