Leadership

Italian Trade Group to World: The Mafia Is No Laughing Matter

By / Mar 26, 2014 An ad for the Spanish chain La Mafia, a restaurant that drew criticism from the Italian press earlier this month.

Though Italian organized crime is a gimmick commonly used to sell food around the world, an agricultural trade group in Italy says such representations trivialize a very real—and very dangerous—issue. Now the association wants the rest of the world to change its ways.

It may seem funny (or at least a fun cultural touchstone) to name an Italian-themed food business after the Mafia, but an Italian trade group says it’s anything but a joke.

Coldiretti, which represents agricultural producers in Italy, has launched a media campaign to let the public know that the Mafia remains a very real and very dangerous thing there. The trade group is asking foreign governments and the European Union to stop the “market of horrors” of cookbooks, restaurants, and types of pizza and pasta that reference Italy’s history with organized crime.

These sorts of unacceptable commercial practices damage the image of Italy abroad, but above all have a profound impact on the many Italians who have been, and who unfortunately continue to be, victims of organized crime.

Among the many examples: Chilli Mafia, a brand of flavored peanuts sold in the U.K.; The Mafia Cookbook, written by Gambino crime family whistleblower Joseph Iannuzzi; and Godfather’s Pizza, a U.S. chain once led by 2012 presidential candidate and onetime National Restaurant Association CEO Herman Cain.

It was a Spanish example of this trend—the restaurant chain La Mafia—that drew negative attention in Italy earlier this month, after the Italian paper La Repubblica wrote an article [in Italian] critical of the restaurant after it was featured in the U.K. newspaper The Independent. That led to impassioned responses from both government officials and the trade group.

“These sorts of unacceptable commercial practices damage the image of Italy abroad, but above all have a profound impact on the many Italians who have been, and who unfortunately continue to be, victims of organized crime,” Coldiretti President Roberto Moncalvo told The Telegraph.

Within Italy, the food producers association is pushing forth efforts to root out organized crime in its industry. Speaking to Italian news site The Local, Coldiretti estimated that organized crime had cost the agricultural industry $19.3 billion last year, an increase of 12 percent from 2012.

As a result of Mafia influence, turnover in the agriculture industry is high, according to the association. And with a wide number of businesses influenced by organized crime throughout the production chain, it says food safety is a major issue. Coldiretti plans to create an “agromafia” report each year to inform the public of the effects that organized crime has on its industry.

The Mafia’s serious impact on its business is part of the reason why the group is speaking out now.

“Our research has uncovered a real market of horrors which is making money out of one of the most painful scourges of our society,” Moncalvo told The Telegraph.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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