Pasta: 1 pack out of 3 contains foreign wheat: where is the problem?
Pasta: 1 pack out of 3 contains foreign wheat: where is the problem?

Pasta. Spaghetti, torciglioni, farfalle, macaroni, to be seasoned with the classic ragù, with pesto, baked in the oven or simply with a little butter and Parmesan, but always pasta.

Pasta is the main dish of us Italians, what most represents our gastronomic tradition, the dish that we decline in a thousand different preparations, passing with indifference from the warm, comforting and rich baked pasta of the holidays to the refreshing, fast and light pasta salad.

In short, as long as it is pasta.

It is therefore normal that we Italians are not alone the first consumers of pasta in the world but also the first producers. The pasta sector, in fact, represents the most important pole of the Italian food industry and it is worth alone one fifth of exports, for a total amount of 18.5 billion euros the year (data from La Lettura / Corriere della Sera).

pasta production chart
pasta production chart

And when we talk about pasta, it must be specified, the lion's share is there durum wheat pasta, compact and consistent, the true queen of our tables.

Too bad, however, that the production of local wheat is not sufficient to cover national needs, as there is an average annual deficit of about 2 million tons of durum wheat (average of the last 15 years); hence, the need to resort to imported grain, to the extent of About 40% of the total, wheat without which Italy would lose the primacy of world leader in the export and production of pasta and Italians would be forced to cut the consumption of their beloved spaghetti and related products by about 30-40%.

Therefore, these simple data would suffice for dispel the myth under which buying pasta produced with the 100% national durum wheat "il granio Italia" would be saved while the opposite is true, namely that Italian production is saved every day by pasta companies that certainly buy most of the durum wheat needed in Italy, but which also use for their product foreign grain.

"Italian pasta has always been made with wheat imported from Ukraine, the United States, Venezuela - says Roberto La Pira, director of Fatto Alimentare - and the idea that only" made in Italy "is good is a bit debunking".

In fact, companies use foreign wheat not only to make up for the shortage of national wheat, but also for qualitative reasons: imported durum wheat, especially that coming from Canada, the United States and Ukraine, has greater quantities of gluten than national wheat, resulting in a better final product from an organoleptic point of view, with a paste that retains more starch and has a better cooking resistance.

In other words, imported wheat is necessary not only for a trivial reason of need, but also to enrich and improve the quality of ours.

Yet, however necessary quantitatively and qualitatively, imported wheat is viewed with distrust by many operators in the sector and above all perceived by the final consumer as less healthy than local wheat, so much so that more and more pasta factories have created product lines 100 percent Italian wheat “, Including pasta factories that are not exactly artisanal like Barilla.

For the more patriotic readers, here is a list of three best-selling brands that make pasta with 100% Italian wheat:

- Afeltra

- Black moose

- ViviVerde and FiorFiore (Coop)

- Felicetti Monograno and organic durum wheat

- Floriddia

- Dear Pastificio Gragnano

- Ghigi

- Girolomoni

- Grano Armando

- Dedicated and organic line (Granoro)

- Iris

- Liguori

- Palandri

- Jolly

- Pastificio dei Campi Gragnano

- Sgambaro

- Valle del Grano

- Verrigni

long pasta
long pasta

Among the reasons for this mistrust are the alleged lower control over the supply chain and the higher percentage of molds present in imported wheat.

The latter, in fact, especially if it comes from overseas, remains crammed inside ships for a long time where humidity, heat and lack of adequate ventilation would create a favorable environment for the formation of mycotoxins, toxic chemicals that are then also found in the final product, for as well as within the limits of tolerance established by the strict European law.

But molds and mycotoxins due to transport and storage are not the only problems that are raised with respect to foreign grains: according to Simonetta Nanni, Slow Food agronomist, the intensive use of the same types of wheat, compared to the many original varieties of the last century, in addition to having selected increasingly smaller grains, with more compact ears and consequent less air circulation, has led to a greater appearance of molds and fungi, the cause, according to him, of the proliferation of several diseases and intolerances which have become more and more widespread in recent years.

Problems that, according to Nanni, would not arise if only “real and ancient” national grains were used.

On this last point, however, there seems to be no unanimity of views, in fact there are those who argue that the so-called "ancient" grains so fashionable today, due to genetic mutations, including natural ones, have very little to do with the grains cultivated thousands of years ago, and that it is not at all proven that eating "ancient" grains would be more beneficial to our health than consuming current grains.

twine dough
twine dough

A small diatribe, therefore, between the supporters of national wheat tout-court and those who do not disdain imported wheat, however, necessary if the current Italian production and consumption records are to be maintained.

Meanwhile, while we wait for the issue to be resolved, we, simple and passionate consumers of pasta, will continue to enjoy our steaming spaghetti dishes, without prejudice and with a lot of enjoyment.

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