A draft bill currently under examination by the Italian Senate aims to safeguard and protect artisanal gelato, a symbol of Italian gastronomic excellence around the world just as much as pasta, pizza and espresso.
The bill, proposed by six senators from the center-left parties, wants to regulate the amount of air contained in gelato, and fine those who pump too much air into it, selling it as ‘artisanal’. The practice of injecting large amounts of air into gelato mixtures results in a fluffier, and therefore more visually appealing, product. It also makes it cheaper to produce, while often being sold at higher ‘artisanal gelato' prices.
The bill rigorously defines what constitutes gelato and who can claim the title of artisan gelato-maker. According to the bill, for gelato to be considered artisanal, it must be produced using high quality ingredients and methods, and should not contain more than 30% of air, which artisanal producers achieve by mixing certain ingredients vigorously. Anyone who sells cheap imitations should be fined up to €10,000.
While the proposal was welcomed by some, others argued that air is a false problem: undeclared additives are far worse, they say. If, in a pistachio flavored gelato, pistachio is last in the list of ingredients, that is a major problem.
Supporters of the law claim that industrial ice cream can sometimes contain up to 80% air. They do recognize that the addition of artificial flavors, colorings and hydrogenated fats is a problem and want them to be eliminated as well. The law would also restrict the title of ‘artigiano’ only to those who can qualify based on skills and production methods.
The reason for the provision, as many gelato makers have for long pointed out, is that Italian artisanal gelato and the profession of artisanal gelato maker, an important symbol of Italian cuisine recognized worldwide, is neither contemplated nor protected in the Italian legal system. A national legislation to differentiate between industrial and artisanal gelato is also lacking.
Interviewed by Italian media, Riccardo Nencini, one of the senators who drafted the bill, said he proposed the law because “Italian gelato, like pizza and pasta, is one of the gastronomic symbols of our country, it is a high-quality product, an identity card of Italy in the world. It must be given more value because the current law does not protect our artisan gelato culture or its producers.”
If this seems like a trivial issue, consider that the gelato industry has a turnover of 2.8 billion euros in Italy, where there are 39,000 gelato shops.
At Italy Magazine, we are enthusiastic gelato fans and have dedicated many articles to this sweet treat, check our dedicated section here.