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Italy Could Make Bad Gelato Illegal

Senators are considering a law that would fine vendors for selling artificially enhanced frozen treats.


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If you've ever taken a trip to Italy, then you probably Instagrammed at least one picture of your own oversized scoop of gelato, or of an ice cream shop's colorful assortment of flavors. (It's OK, we've all done it.) According to one Italian senator, gelato has become one of the "gastronomic symbols" of Italy, and the government is considering a serious crackdown on shops that sell inferior—or even artificially fluffy—versions of the iconic dessert.

According to The Telegraph, six senators from the center-left Democratic and Italia Viva political parties have proposed legislation that would fine ice cream makers that add excess air to gelato to give it a fluffier texture, or who rely on artificial flavors, synthetic dyes, and hydrogenated fats. If the bill passes, the only permitted ingredients would be "milk and its derivatives," eggs, and fresh fruit, and those who are caught using artificial... anything could face fines of up to €10,000 ($12,030).

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"Italian ice cream has always been one of the gastronomic symbols of our country, recognized globally together with pizza and pasta, but our laws do not preserve artisanal ice cream and producers who make it." senator Riccardo Nencini said."

Il Messaggero reports that currently, "artisanal" ice creams contain between 20 to 30 percent air which is a side effect of "vigorously mixing the ingredients," while "industrial" versions use compressed air, and might be up to 80 percent air. "Basically, you pay for the air," the outlet writes. (The proposed legislation would cap the amount of air allowed in gelato at 30 percent.)

Stefano Ferraro, who is considered one of Italy's 50 best ice cream makers, isn't opposed to legislation that recognizes and protects the work of true gelato artisans—and that distinguishes their products from those made by corner-cutters who use pre-made ice cream bases or compressed air. "A law that protects consumers and real artisans would be useful," he told Il Messaggero. "Many of us search for the best cocoa mass, the one that best fits our idea [for gelato]. But, at this point, it doesn't make any sense to compete with those who use much easier methods."

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And one gelato master told The Telegraph that artificially inflated ice cream isn't as big a problem as vendors who rely on artificial flavors. "If you go through the list of ingredients, you'll see that the key one is often the last," Alberto Manassei said. "If the last thing you find in a pistachio ice cream is pistachio, then you have a problem."

The bill has been assigned to the senate's commerce and tourism commission. If it passes, your next scoop of Italian gelato might look slightly less vivid on Instagram, but it could taste even better. That seems like a totally fair trade.


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