Filippo Antonio De Cecco, more trouble from the US to Italy.

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Filippo Antonio De Cecco’s management of the industrial group of the same name, the world’s third-largest pasta producer, records more troubles between the U.S. and Italy. Products rejected at US customs, US wheat seized at Bari port.

At the Court of Chieti, meanwhile, the GIP’s ruling is still awaited on the continuation of the investigation for fraud in trade on 5,000 tons of French wheat renamed Apulian, 30,000 tons of N. Dakota wheat and semolina of unknown origin. (1) #CleanSpades.

Sagittarius ship, mycotoxins and partial decay of U.S. wheat De Cecco

Sagittarius is the name of a ship flying the flag of the Marshall Islands. She set sail from Corpus Christi (Texas, USA) with a cargo of 25,000 tons of grain owned by De Cecco. Value estimated at € 9 million, plus 1 for the charter of the motor vessel that mysteriously stopped in Malta, where it stopped for a couple of days, before reaching the port of Bari.

However, the American wheat purchased by De Cecco is not really ‘of the best’ as claimed in the commercials. In fact, contamination by mycotoxins-genotoxic and carcinogenic contaminants (2)-and partial decay of the grain led to the seizure of the entire cargo, with an order to stop unloading. (3) Thus, the motor vessel Sagittarius is still at anchor in the port of Bari, for 50 days, with enormous freight costs (demurrage). (4)

Partial grain caries, risks of environmental contamination

Partial caries of wheat(Karnal burnt) is a disease caused by a fungus, Tilletia indica. First widespread in some Asian countries, wheat decay has spread to parts of North and South America. Unfortunately, even in Arizona, California and Texas, U.S. states that export wheat to European Union countries. The EFSA Scientific Panel on Plant Health published a scientific opinion in 2010 to assess the risks of environmental contamination associated with the import of U.S. durum wheat and flour into Italy. (5)

Tilletia indica spores withstand unfavorable environmental conditions very well and can survive in the soil for several years. Once it has established itself, partial grain caries is very difficult to eradicate. Under favorable weather conditions, the fungus can then infect local wheat inflorescences and develop spores on the caryopses. Grain infected with Tilletia indica has an unpleasant fishy odor, and the most affected grains cannot be used for semolina and flour production.

Partial grain caries, control measures needed

‘The Panel on Plant Health concluded that the US bunted kernel standard does not provide a level of protection equivalent to EU requirements and that such level of protection could only be warranted by measures which include testing at harvest and before shipment to detect T. indica teliospores’ (EFSA, scientific opinion on Tilletia indica). (5)

To date, partial caries in wheat is not present in Europe. Any consignment of wheat imported from areas contaminated with the fungus must therefore be checked-both at the harvesting stage and before shipment-to ensure that it is free of the dangerous spores. Since the EFSA panel at the time found some flaws and inconsistencies in the analyses conducted in the US, then described in the USDA APHIS Karnal bunt manual (2007), additional control measures are also established in BIPs (Border Inspection Points), under the guidance of an official phytosanitary officer. (6)

De Cecco, pasta rejected at US customs

Another issue relates toFood & Drug Administration (FDA) Order 30.3.20, which rejected the import of De Cecco brand short pasta into the US. Current overseas standards indeed prescribe that pasta be fortified with certain amounts of vitamins and minerals. And yet, following analysis, De Cecco bucatini were found to be deficient in iron (10.9 instead of 13-16.5 mg/lb). The customs blockade had caused a serious shortage of assortment in the US market, the cause of which was revealed to the public 11 months late. (7)

The CEO(chief executive officer) of De Cecco USA, Giacomo Campinoti, admitted among other things that the blockade at U.S. customs had forced the company to ‘get rid of’ a large quantity of pasta. ‘A lot. It was a lot. It was … quite some pasta.‘ Since it is paste fortified with vitamins and minerals, moreover, its sale would have been possible only in a small number of countries on the African continent. But the costs of shipping (and re-labeling) would have been excessive compared to those of disposal (as waste) on site. (7)

Unsalable fortified dough, what fate?

The De Cecco plant in Fara San Martino (CH) has had to stop shipments to the U.S., following a blockade ordered by the Food and Drug Administration. But how much pasta had already been produced and packaged for the U.S. market with the wrong recipe? According to some rumors, inventories in stock amounted to about 2,000 tons, as of March 2020. Common sense would have prompted a donation of the food to countries where endemic hunger has worsened during the lockdown, perhaps through the World Food Program (WFP).

Only a year later, apparently 125,000 packages (approx. 1,000 t) of pasta would instead be delivered to Splendorini Molini EcoPartner Srl, in Umbria. To allocate edible and safe food for energy conversion (by processing them into raw materials for biodigesters), without even considering reuse for feed production. But why the sudden rush to vacate the Fara San Martino depot? And what happened to the remaining 1,000 tons of fortified dough?

Unsalable fortified dough, an investigative hypothesis

The supervisory authorities, allegedly, never performed any investigation of the material flows of goods, passive and active billing cycles, DDTs (transport documents), yields and mass balances, and inventories of raw materials and products in De Cecco and its individual factories. Although evidence had already emerged of falsifying accounting documents to disguise the French origin of 5,000 tons of wheat instead registered as Apulian, and other significant fraud against Italian consumers (8,9).

The hitherto omitted investigations may reveal the soundness of a hypothesis about the possible fate of fortified paste unsaleable in the US. Taking into account that the De Cecco plant in Fara San Martino, like not all, has a shredder. Assuming as possible an initial stockpile of 2,000 t and the destination to biomass of only 1,000 t, one year later, it seems safe to assume that 1,000 t were shredded and recycled, progressively, in the production of new pulp.

Scrap, recycling, dilution

Pasta processing scraps-such as spaghetti ‘bows’ needed for drying (and inevitably contaminated by machinery lubrication oil, albeit food grade)-are destined for the feed industry, to provide animals with nutritious food. Shredding them and feeding them back into the kneading machine is possible but does not belong to quality productions. In fact, the shredder degrades the gluten, and the ‘mush’ of waste-when fed in a significant proportion into a new dough-tends to bring the color tone of the dough closer to gray, and decrease its resistance to baking.

De Cecco ‘s plant in Fara San Martino, moreover, processed 285,000 tons of wheat in 2019 alone. Should the above hypothesis be confirmed, the ‘dilution’ of 1,000 tons of fortified and ground paste would have been almost imperceptible, perhaps not even detectable with sophisticated analytical instruments. Except, perhaps, deciding once and for all to look at a comb cluttered with knots, on raw materials and manufacturing processes, that have emerged under the autocratic management of the Black Knight.

De Cecco, semolina and product certification

Advertisements on the Abruzzo-based giant’s corporate website decry, among other things, the product quality certification issued by DNV GL on 6/29/04 and last renewed until 11/1/22. (10)

‘Features subject to Certification:

– raw materials for durum wheat pasta.
Pasta is made only from semolina having the following characteristics:
– Technical yield of semolina extraction from wheat: ≤ 67%.
– Gluten index in semolina in pasta making: ≥ 70
Semolina percentage on presses with grain size > 400 microns: > 40%‘. (10)

The certification, it should be noted, does not extend to the declaration of origin of the grain nor to the ‘De Cecco method’ which claims exclusive use of semolina produced in its own plants from the ‘best quality grains.’ The question remains, however, as to whether the approximately 4,000 tons of semolina-not grains-that turn out to have been bought by purchasing director Mario Aruffo at the behest of Filippo Antonio De Cecco correspond, at least, to the specifications subject to certification.

#Clean Spades!

The data that emerged in the investigations of the Public Prosecutor’s Office at the Court of Chieti – in addition to the additional news and clues referred to above – escape only the big publishers that Mr. Filippo Antonio De Cecco remunerates lavishly and in fact keep silent, greedy for publicity (La7, Cairo publisher) and ‘research’ (La Repubblica). (11)

On the other hand, the judiciary, the Antitrust Authority, and authorities and bodies in charge of public and private controls must carry out their institutional duties in faithful compliance with the law. Not to mention the significance of a ‘gift’ worth about 8,000 euros from Filippo Antonio De Cecco to Giovanni Legnini, former president of the Superior Council of the Judiciary, on 10.1.15. (9)

#Clean Spades!

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Dario Dongo. Filippo Antonio De Cecco, maxi-fraud on the origin of wheat. Chieti’s GIP has the floor. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.4.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/filippo-antonio-de-cecco-maxi-frode-sull-origine-del-grano-la-parola-al-gip-di-chieti

(2) Marta Strinati. Mycotoxins, the invisible evil. ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5/24/19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/micotossine-il-male-invisibile-l-abc

(3) Wheat decay: US ship stopped in Bari. Wheat Salus. 4/28/21, https://granosalus.it/2021/04/28/carie-del-grano/

(4) Geolocation of motor vessels is available, in real time, on some websites. Up-to-date news on the location of the ship Sagittarius (IMO 9550254) can be drawn from v. https://www. marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:419767/mmsi:538005936/imo:9550254/vessel:SAGITTARIUS)

(5) EFSA. Scientific opinion on a quantitative pathway analysis of the likelihood of Tilletia indica M. introduction into EU with import of US wheat. EFSA Journal 2010;8(6):1621. doi: https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1621. https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1621

(6) Reg. EU 2017/625, Article 49.1.c. See also reg. EU 2019/1012

(7) Richard Handler. De Cecco Finally Reveals What the Heck Is Going On With Its Bucatini. Grabstreet. 5.2.21, https://www.grubstreet.com/2021/02/de-cecco-bucatini-shortage-interview.html

(8) Dario Dongo. Spaghetti westerns in the Abruzzese style. Filippo Antonio De Cecco’s film, premiere. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.2.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/spaghetti-western-all-abruzzese-il-film-di-filippo-antonio-de-cecco-in-anteprima

(9) Dario Dongo. Spaghetti westerns in the Abruzzese style. Mr. De Cecco’s pastatrac. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.2.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/spaghetti-western-all-abruzzese-il-pastatrac-del-signor-de-cecco

(10) DNV GL. Certificate no. CERT-141-2004-PC-BRI-DNV. https://www.dececco.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/40046_crt-F.lli-De-Cecco-di-Filippo-Fara-San-Martino-S.p.A.-Pc-Food-STP-38-rev.4-2020-12-04.pdf

(11) De Cecco is Green Star 2021. The Republic. 4/26/21, https://www.repubblica.it/dossier/economia/qualita-e-mercati/2021/04/26/news/de_cecco_e_green_star_2021-298168592/?ref=search

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.