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Focus September 2018

The Mediterranean diet is dangerous


The UN wants to tax olive oil and cheese, including buffalo mozzarella.


Those who are past the first bloom of youth may remember the surreal cartoon series entitled “Contrordine compagni!” (Counterorder, comrades!’), published by Giovannino Guareschi in the magazine “Candido”, to poke fun at blind, prompt and absolute obedience to the Communist party. This old exhortation sprang to our minds upon learning that the UN wants to tax olive oil and cheese for health reasons. The counterorder now aimed at us morons is clear: the Mediterranean diet, recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010, is beneficial to health and longevity. This diet favours fruit, cereals, vegetables and olive oil while permitting moderate use of dairy products and wine. Nonsense! The World Health Organisation instead wants to tax olive oil, grana cheese and wine. A formidable attack on Italian products and a windfall for the ‘light’ or ‘diet’ products of gargantuan multinational industries. And since we are, indeed, morons, they might as well dumb down food labels by law, getting rid of those pesky numbers. How about a nice big traffic light, with red meaning “stop”: eat this little chunk of parmesan at your peril. It’s too salty and fatty. The same applies to buffalo mozzarella, not to mention the pernicious prosciutto and other cured meats. Even Neapolitan pizza, also recognised by UNESCO, would be verboten, and wine would be off-limits. In short, the fulsomely lauded Mediterranean diet would in practice be recast as unhealthy and hazardous. But since we are not, in fact, morons, we can easily perceive what is behind all this: the overwhelming interests of food multinationals, combined with indifference from our politicians who usually jerk awake in disbelief when the fat is already in the fire, presumably accompanied by excessive salt. Halt! Red card. Given its position, the Academy will strive hard to contain this folly, even by involving the Académie Européenne de la Gastronomie, though time is truly running short now.


Paolo Petroni