Fake news in the food industry, the quibus


Fake news unfortunately recurs in the food sector, as it does in various others. Why so much attention, to food and what revolves around it, is explained in short. Quibus:

  • the agribusiness industry is the leading manufacturing sector in the EU (with more than 1 trillion euros in turnover, 30 billion in positive trade balance, 4.24 million employed. (1). The interests at stake, inevitably, are brought forward by opposing sides on different sides. Large industrial groups vs. SMEs, production chains vs. GDO, North vs. Southern Europe, balanced foods vs. ‘indulgence’ foods (or junk-food, depending on your point of view),
  • the agricultural supply chain still expresses extraordinary political power. In Europe as in Italy where Coldiretti, the first confederation in the EU by number of members (1.6 million), still dictates the sector’s political agenda. And their own ‘side of the story’ on any news that even indirectly might involve local agriculture,
  • the ‘
    food & drink
    ‘ in all its declensions (economic, social, cultural and tourist, experiential-edonistic), is present and indeed redolent, in every context of information and dissemination. With guaranteed wide following from readers and viewers, who often prefer to stimulate taste buds over other neurological functions.

Fake news in the food industry, fact-checking is urgently needed

is therefore indispensable and requires, on the part of information professionals, peculiar attentions. First, it is necessary to check the substantiation of any news-when it even comes from seemingly authoritative sources (e.g., ministries and institutions, Coldiretti, Confindustria and other ‘intermediate’ bodies) regarding the effectiveness of national standards.

The examples of

fake news

in recent years have not been lacking, particularly with regard to the so-called ‘origin decrees’. Through which the government of

Paolo Gentiloni has theoretically imposed

mandatory indication of the origin of raw materials

on the labels of pasta, rice, canned tomatoes


Another example of

fake news

, on the heels of its predecessors, concerns the c.d. ‘establishment location decree’. The d.lgs. 145/17, which in theory provided for the obligation to cite the location of the establishment

(of production or packaging) on the labels of food products

Made in Italy


In all of the above cases, the Italian press celebrated national measures of autarkic flavor in unison. However, without taking care to verify their legitimacy, which is conditional on the licet Of the European Commission. (2) And in the absence of the green light from Brussels, as has happened in just such cases, national standards must be disapplied ex officio. They therefore count as waste paper.

‘Ideological’ battles also provide fertile ground for fake news in the food sector. Ideology, at a closer look, is just the fetish waved by the strong powers. Big advertisers and/or big news agency subscribers team up to mystify real problems and policies designed to address them.

The war on ‘traffic lights on labels’ – as well as to other measures to prevent endemic diseases (e.g. diabetes

) linked to unbalanced foods and diet regimens-is a shining example.

Ferrero behind the scenes

, Coldiretti and Federalimentare at the forefront, ministers on duty at the order(the last was Maurizio Martina

). Camel troops of uncritical journalists to follow. (3)


legality and sustainability

of productions

is another area of dutiful attention when referring to individual production chains, operators and territorial contexts related to them. The first critical factor of several agricultural productions, in Europe

as in more distant countries

, is the exploitation of workers.

Abuse of workers

often reach the level of slavery

and also involve minors. But this issue tends to escape the mainstream media Italian, as if it were taboo. Instead of an opportunity to reflect, raise awareness, promote civility and respect.

The impact of supply chains on the planet

, for that matter, almost seems to affect only the youngest

. I


, who are, however, still too young to gain access to the newsrooms that matter.

Dario Dongo


(1) 2017 data, source.

Food Drink Europe

(2) See Directive 2015/1535/EU.

(3) And this is how the public health policies promoted in the UN
are portrayed as improbable battles against the

Made in Italy

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