Fake alpine milk, dangerous relationships?

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Alpine lowland milk and other unpunished malfeasance by an industrial group that seems to benefit from special ‘graces,’ in the public and private sectors. Dangerous relationships?

Fake alpine milk, state and EU fraud and other amenities

A marketing strategy based on the promotion of an ‘Alpine Milk‘ that is not Alpine, a processed cheese smuggled in as ‘Milk Slices,’ and other deceptions. Ahead of the IPO of a Cuneo-based industry, Inalpi, in the hands of a company in the Netherlands (Saverni Investment Bv), some doubts hover. Not least a balance sheet that looks more red than rosy, although certified by the firm Deloitte (which is also remembered for its services to Callisto Tanzi’s Parmalat).





It was only a few months ago




the news of the diktat of the Ministry of Economic Development’s

to the Central Institute for Quality Control and Fraud Repression. If you claim the use of ‘


Alpine Milk




‘, it must actually come from the mountain areas identified in the appropriate international convention, and not also from the plains and coasts.


Behind the exchange of letters between central administrations lies the case of Inalpi, an industrial group already known in the news due to previous convictions for fraud against the state and the European Community (with latest confirmation from the Court of Cassation in January 2018). Tax fraud back in the day also led current vice president Silvano Barattero, councilor Egidio Invernizzi and their respective wives to the galleys.


The Inalpi Group-in addition to supplying milk powder to a globally celebrity Italian confectionery giant, and various branded references to large-scale retail giants in Italy-markets its own-brand dairy products, distributed throughout the Peninsula.

Milk sounding, one-way trip. Milan-Rome, from IAP to Antitrust.

In autumn 2017 we had already reported Inalpi’s misleading advertisements and unfair business practices, respectively, to the Institute for Advertising Self-Discipline (IAP) and to the Market and Competition Authority (Antitrust). Denouncing the illegality of the call for fresh milk in sliced processed cheese, designated precisely as ‘


Slices of Milk




‘, in violation of the Stresa Convention and applicable European standards.


The IAP, after several months of investigation, overlooked the essential points of the appeal. By merely prescribing Inalpi to delete any reference to ‘Italian milk‘ on a processed cheese made with ingredients of varied origins. The good living room of publicists thus covered a Pandora’s box from which even more serious responsibilities could have emerged.




The Regulatory Authority




for Competition and the Market has not yet spoken, partly because the case submitted to it is broader and involves several cases of Milk Sounding

. Namely, the illicit evocation of milk and its proper values on products that have very little to do with it, from processed cheese to candy, as well as bread and water.


Antitrust should Therefore, take action against several companies. Not only Inalpi-for its processed cheese promoted as ‘


Slices of Milk




‘ – but also Sperlari, already censured by the IAP



for boasting ‘




80% milk


‘ in Galatines which instead contain, depending on taste, between 40% and 33% milk powder (and if ever 40 of powder could equal 80 of liquid, 33 would equal 66!). In addition to Morato Pane and Conad, because of the ‘


milk sandwiches






complete with a glass in plain sight, except instead containing only powdered milk (an ingredient with quite different characteristics, including nutritionally). And Sangemini

, mineral water being compared with milk, in total disregard of consumer intelligence as well as European rules on




Nutrition & Health Claims




.

Inalpi’s situation was then aggravated by advertisements boasting the use of ‘Alpine Milk‘ in a variety of products. Indeed, the message is reinforced through reference to an EC directive, which, however, does not cover mountain areas but a much wider geographic area, including entire regions such as Piedmont, Liguria and Lombardy, cities included.

Fraud Repression, the unusual inaction

The Fraud Repression, urged by the trade association Assolatte, had addressed a question to the Ministry of Economic Development (Mi.S.E.). And the answer was categorical, if ‘


one wants to spend the alpine origin of a product or ingredient




‘ one must refer exclusively to the mountainous territories referred to in the




Alpine Convention




‘.

Prompt action by administrative and judicial authorities was expected to shed light on labels and advertisements that distort the actual nature and characteristics of Inalpi products, as well as the origin of milk.

This is without neglecting the goods made by Inalpi for large customers, where they, too, echo the suspicious wording proposed by Inalpi. But this did not happen.

TheICQRF (Central Inspectorate for Quality Protection and Fraud Repression of Agri-food Products) — known for its promptness in intervening on fallacious declarations of origin — seemed timid at first, for once at least. In entrusting another ministry to consider whether the Alps include the Po Valley or the Ligurian Sea. When flipping through an elementary school geography textbook would have sufficed, to say the least.

Combination, the Delegation of Delegation for Fraud Repression is still in the hands of Andrea Olivero, deputy minister of Agriculture. In vain candidate for the Chamber of Deputies on March 4, 2018 in the Cuneo-Saluzzo-Savigliano uninominal constituency, which includes the municipality of Moretta, among others. It may be a coincidence, but not even months after Mi.S.E.’s clarification, there is no news of any action by the Institute for Fraud Repression against Inalpi for the crime of trade fraud carried out with ‘Alpine Lowland Milk. (1)

At left, Deputy Minister Andrea Oliviero. At right, Inalpi chairman Ambrogio Invernizzi

Corporate codes of ethics and budget certifications

One also has to wonder why large retail chains-in the process of accepting Inalpi products, including private label products-have overlooked violations of the law that are blatant. Between (il)legality and corporate codes of ethics, the way seems to be lost. But not when it comes to events, parties and dinners at starred restaurants, which the CEOs of some retail giants rarely miss. (2)

Finally, after witnessing quite a few local bank meltdowns in recent years, one wonders with what serenity Deloitte certifies financial statements such as Inalpi’s. That as of final 2016 recorded 53 million euros in debts to lenders and 84 million in total debt. Not to mention an unlikely figure for a dairy industry that does not process aged cheeses, 19 million declared goods in stock. If milk had accounted for even half of the declared raw materials, this would have been about 9 million liters, or 272 tanks.

Breaking news, consumer association Codacons has filed a complaint with the Antitrust Authority, denouncing the advertising of ‘lowland alpine milk’.

Dangerous relationships? Perhaps, it will be seen.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) For the sake of the Code of Criminal Procedure, under which ‘public officials (…) who, in the course of or because of their duties or service, become aware of an indictable offense, must report it in writingwithout delay‘ (Article 331 of the Criminal Code) and Criminal Code, Article 361



(2) L



‘eloquent image of the white truffle avalanche – at dinner with the ‘Inalpi family’ at chef Gian Piero Vivalda’s Antica Corona Reale in Cervere (CN) – comes from the Facebook profile of CEO of



Conad Francesco Pugliese,



November 2017

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