Last May 21st, the Department of Food and Drug of the University of Parma had the pleasure to host a group of students from Michigan State University (MSU). The group was led by Professor Rhonda Crackel, Director of Study Abroad of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources of Michigan State University and Cathy Weir, Professor in International Food Safety who I personally met last October at MSU during a visit as a Marie Curie fellow.
The aim of this meeting was to open a future collaboration in the field of food system between the two Universities. After the welcoming and presentation of our University by Professors Alessandro Bernazzoli, Alessandra Rossi and Cristina Mora, a set of short talks carried out by young researchers were given and discussed among the participants.
First, my presentation was about the role of Geographical Indications (GIs) in fighting the so-called phenomenon of Italian sounding. GIs are recognized in the European Union with the distinctive signs of PDO (Protected Designation Of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) that associate products of quality and reputation with their area of production. I explained how such recognition has the ability to foster market-based support for local traditions and cultures. However, the Italian sounding phenomenon which consists in marketing a product with an ITALIAN food name, places, images, slogans, colors that might remind to a real Italian (Parmesan cheese, Chianti-style, ...) is rising and putting at risk the reputation and the market of Italian gastronomy. Besides the need of a stronger protection within the International regulatory framework, communicating to foreigner consumers the role of Geographical Indications is crucial in raising awareness.
After my presentation, Mr. Luca Bettera, a Master student in Food Technology, talked about “Nostrano Valtrompia” cheese, a typical dairy product from Northern Italy. After a brief introduction about the vast scenery of Italian artisanal cheeses, he went through Nostrano Valtrompia production chain from farm to fork and he explained why it has been recognized with PDO sign (Protected Designation of Origin). Several images and also a video was displayed to better understand how environment and cheesemakers skills work together to make this cheese unique. Furthermore, he introduced his thesis project: a comparison of different seasoning rooms and their (probable) effects on physico-chemical and sensory properties of Nostrano Valtrompia.
Then, Dr. Maria Paciulli, an expert in food technology, illustrated the main results of the project BIOCAST, funded by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, aimed to enhance the chestnut supply chain in mountain areas through the development of products made from chestnut processing. In particular, three lines of products were studied: bread, biscuits and fresh pasta, with and without gluten, enriched with chestnut flour and peels. Chestnut flour, besides its peculiar organoleptic properties, boasts a nutritionally rich composition, which makes it a very interesting ingredient for gluten-free products, known for their poor nutritional intake. Chestnut peels, now considered a waste material, are an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants; their reuse would contribute to making the chestnut supply chain even more sustainable.
Then Mr. Niccolo' Cataldi, a Master student in Food Technology, talked about his thesis project focusing on wheat bread enriched with lentil flour. He explained how nowadays legumes are increasingly used in food industries, especially to produce or to enrich gluten-free in bakery products. Legumes are richer in fibers and in proteins than wheat, but to take advantage of their good nutritional profile, more research is needed in order to have a good bread structure. The aim of his project is to understand if there are technological differences linked to different particle sizes of the lentil flour. He drew to the conclusion that further studies should still be done to obtain a good bread enriched with lentil, a product which could have a lot of potential in a society more and more careful to a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, a tasting session of wine “Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut Millesimato”, offered by "VI.VO. Winery" and led by a professional Sommelier Mr. Umberto Mazza Saluzzo was proposed. The event ended with a networking activity carried out by a group of our bachelor students who organized an aperitif to let their American colleagues find out and taste the variety and culture of the typical Italian delicatessen and in particular the ones coming from Emilia-Romagna region.
The sponsors of the event were indeed the “Consorteria of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” which donated to the American organizers a bottle of the precious Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and the “Coppini Arte Olearia Agricultural Company” that kindly offered a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to each participant.