Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


FIU Law Review





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This article traces the evolution of the regulation of Italian pasta from the beginning of the twentieth century until today. We show how during Fascism the production of wheat became a national battle, and pasta turned out to be the traditional product promoted by Mussolini's propaganda. During the 1960s, new regulations of Italian pasta made exclusively with durum wheat contributed to strengthening the Italian industry during the nation's economic boom. Spaghetti became a global symbol of the Dolce Vita, linking Italian pasta to a fashionable and aesthetically desirable way of life. The Italian Parliament adopted a law that obligated the production of dried pasta to be made exclusively with durum wheat, while fresh pasta was made by a mixture of soft and hard wheat. With the establishment of the European Community Customs Union in 1968, followed by the plan to establish a single market in the late 1980s, Italian pasta regulations restricting the labeling of such pasta to durum wheat products were soon caught by European authorities as a protectionist measure. The struggle for the liberalization of Italian pasta took place in the late 1980s before the European Court of Justice, followed by the Italian Constitutional Court. Through reregulation by the Italian Parliament, the protectionist legislation was set aside, allowing for the arrival of soft wheat pasta from Northern Europe into the domestic market. Despite fears that the consumption of durum wheat pasta would be fatally displaced, our article shows how a confluence of new regulatory measures ranging from labeling, geographical indicators, antitrust, and consumer protection legislation together with EU tariff barriers towards third countries, enabled Italian pasta producers from Southern Italy to thrive rather than disappear. Additionally, the flourishing of a Slow Food culture and attention to local production went hand-in-hand with world-wide sustainability goals of pasta Made in Italy that is praised for its health, affordability, and environmental benefits. Pasta containing durum wheat remains the primary product consumed by Italians and exported abroad. This steady demand has revamped old and new local production allowing small pasta companies to prosper through the support of the Italian government and its ongoing struggles with Brussels. However, whether such economic development has a direct impact on the Mezzogiorno remains fuzzier, especially through the displacement of informal economies and new forms of competition coming from soft wheat and grains such as spelt and barley that might change consumer demand and create new challenges for local industries.



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