The Italian Ministry of Agriculture, together with ANCI, an association of public health care providers, is to spend 4 million euros on promoting the traditional Mediterranean diet both in Italy and beyond its shores.
The campaign, which will include a website, the printing of 150,000 booklets - 50,000 of which will be in English – the printing of posters and the organisation of special events, is to be aimed not only at North Americans but also at Italians who may have changed their eating habits following the relative prosperity that has enabled them to purchase processed and fast foods. It is hoped that the campaign will boost Italy’s export market for quality regional products such as pasta and olive oil.
The organisers say that the Mediterranean diet is simple to follow and does not involve any complicated recipes. Its staples of olive oil, whole grain cereals, pulses, vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, white meat and fish kept Southern Italians healthy for many centuries during which many of them were poor. Those following the Mediterranean diet eat little red meat and butter and eggs are consumed only in moderation. Yogurt and cheese are also eaten in moderation and moderate consumption of wine is recommended.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 86% of deaths and 75% of health costs in Europe are caused by conditions related to poor diet and lifestyle.
In November 2010 UNESCO recognised the Mediterranean diet as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco.