Italy’s largest farmers’ association is battling against the “scandalous” use of Mafia jargon to sell a variety of food and drink products around the world, from Cosa Nostra whiskey to Chile Mafia tomato sauce.
Coldiretti did an extensive investigation and also discovered that nearly 300 restaurants outside of Italy bear mafia names, including El Padrino in Spain, Don Corleone in Finland, Burger Mafia in Germany, Falafel Mafia in the United States, and Nasi Goreng Mafia in Indonesia.
The most shocking find, said Alessandro Appolito, branch manager at Coldiretti, was a machine gun-shaped whiskey bottle produced in Scotland called Cosa Nostra Shot.
“It’s disgraceful to think that someone could buy something of this nature, even if it’s just for a joke,” Appolito said. “For us, joking about serious things like the mafia is unacceptable.”
He said that marketing under the mafia title had not only caused incredible damage to Italy’s image and its authentic products, but was extremely offensive towards innocent Italians who had died or suffered at the hands of the country’s notorious criminal organizations.
Coldiretti held an exhibition in December in Palermo, Sicily, where Mafia Cosa Nostra originated, of some food and drink items gathered from around the world, including Chilli Mafia, a sauce made in the UK, Mafia Coffee and Il Padrino wines.
“Continuing to associate Italy with mafia stereotypes and criminality greatly harms the country’s image,” he said. But the most important issue is that it is an insult to the mafia victims as hundreds of innocent people have been killed by the mafia or are suffering from its criminality. In Palermo, in particular, there was a strong sense of resentment at this pointless marketing. There are millions of honest, law-abiding Sicilians who are victims of this criminal plague.”
Coldiretti also found that many of the products on shelves in supermarkets and convenience stores around the world, or sold online, were stale.
“They often use the Italian flag on an antique product,” Appolito said. “Not only do these products take up more shelf space than the original Italian products, but they represent a huge economic cost to our food industry.”
Spain was found to host the highest number (63) of mafia-themed restaurants and bars, followed by Ukraine, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, India, Japan, Poland and the United States.
Although there are EU agreements in place to protect products under DOP (Designation of Protected Origin) rules – for example copies of such products can be removed from supermarket shelves – there are no measures to prevent marketing scams such as restaurants or mafia-themed foods.
“It is unacceptable to use and invoke the name of organized crime for marketing purposes,” said Ettore Brandini, president of Coldiretti. “There is economic damage to our agri-food sector, but there is also harm to the victims of the underworld. We need to reach an agreement at the European level to ensure that this cannot happen again.”