Italy’s biggest farmers’ association is waging a battle against the “scandalous” use of mafia terms to sell a variety of food and drink products around the world, from Cosa Nostra whiskey to Chilli Mafia tomato sauce.
Coldiretti undertook an extensive investigation and also discovered that almost 300 restaurants beyond Italy have mafia-themed names, including El Padrino in Spain, Don Corleone in Finland, Burger Mafia in Germany, Falafel Mafia in the US and Nasi Goreng Mafia in Indonesia.
Alessandro Apolito, a branch manager at Coldiretti, said the most shocking discovery was a machine gun-shaped bottle of whisky produced in Scotland and called Cosa Nostra Shot.
“It’s scandalous to think that somebody could buy something of this kind, even if it’s only for a joke,” said Apolito. “For us, joking about such serious things like the mafia is unacceptable.”
He said the mafia-themed marketing not only caused incredible damage to Italy’s image and genuine produce, but was hugely offensive towards innocent Italians who have died or suffered at the hands of the country’s notorious criminal organisations.
Coldiretti held an exhibition in December in the city of Palermo in Sicily, where the Cosa Nostra mafia organisation originated, of some of the food and drink items gathered from around the world, including Chilli Mafia, a sauce made in the UK, Mafia Coffee and Il Padrino wine.
“Continuing to associate Italy with these mafia stereotypes and criminality is hugely damaging to the country’s image,” he said. “But the most significant issue is that it is an offence to the victims of the mafia as hundreds of innocent people have been killed by the mafia or suffer from its criminality. In Palermo, especially, there was a strong sense of indignation over this absurd marketing. There are millions of Sicilians who are honest and respect the laws but who are victims of this criminal plague.”
Coldiretti also found that many of the products, found on shelves in supermarkets and small shops around the world or sold online, were out of date.
“Very often they use an Italian flag on an out-of-date product,” said Apolito. “Not only do these products take away space on shelves from genuine Italian products, but it’s a huge economic cost to our food industry.”
Spain was found to host the largest number (63) of mafia-themed restaurants and bars, followed by Ukraine, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, India, Japan, Poland and the US.
Although there are EU agreements in place to safeguard products under DOP (protected designation of origin) rules – for example copies of such produce can be removed from supermarket shelves – there are no measures to prevent marketing gimmicks such as mafia-themed restaurants or food.
“Using and evoking the name of organised crime for marketing purposes cannot be accepted,” said Ettore Prandini, the president of Coldiretti. “There is economic damage to our agri-food sector, but also damage to the victims of the underworld. We need to reach an agreement at the European level to ensure that this can no longer happen.”