Quality Assurance chain
The right to access food also includes the right to know what is being eaten.
The European food legislation is determined to enable consumers to make informed choices about the food they consume and to prevent any practice that is likely to mislead them.
That is why the traceability of food is fundamental in European policies on food safety.
The purpose of food traceability is to make sure that a record is kept of the history of anything that enters the food chain, from raw materials all the way through to delivery to the final consumer.
Traceability allows the management of any possible situations of risk through the knowledge of production processes and the possible identification of production batches in case of emergency.
Traceability may be solely internal if the entire transformation process concerns a single company; however, when the production process involves more than one company, then traceability must be set in place for the entire production chain.
It is therefore fundamental to always read the label of food products as it helps us make the right choices when buying them.
The following information is printed on the label:
- the ingredient with the largest amount found in the product is written first;
- Registered name, net quantity, allergy indications, additives, nutritional information, conditions for storage and use;
- Expiry date or minimum time limit for storage;
- Origin (for some food products like meat, fruit and vegetables).
Clear, Fresh and Sweet Milk
Around 25,000 tons of milk are produced daily in our region. A huge amount is intended for human consumption, either fresh or long-life or for processing into dairy products in milk plants, cooperatives and dairy processing industries.
It can be said that Piedmont milk, whey and cheese-making industries are as impressive as the Milky Way itself: 2,700 companies with 150,000 heads of cattle that annually produce 9 million tons of milk.
A portion of this milk becomes cheese, and a very prestigious cheese at that with nine DOP products and 55 PAT products.
We choose milk according to:
- animal source (cow, sheep, goat and buffalo)
- the heat treatment, or its equivalent, used (fresh pasteurised, sterilised, micro-filtered)
- fat content present (whole, partially skimmed, and skimmed)
- eventual elements added (proteins, microorganisms, probiotics)
Read the label because it...
- informs us of the products' organoleptic qualities
- permits us to trace the production chain
- ensures us that the milk we drink is the one we want for its quality and freshness
Sterilised or Pasteurised?
All heat-based treatments affect the characteristics of the milk itself meaning that it inevitably cannot be the same as it is when freshly milked from a cow. The higher the temperature (as in the case of UHT sterilisation) the more this varies the milk properties (fat, protein, vitamins). Instead, milk properties are better preserved in high quality fresh pasteurised milk.
Fresh milk is pasteurised within 48 hours of milking and should be consumed within six days after treatment.
Freshly milked milk can be subjected to a series of specific treatments:
- Filtration and refrigeration
- Standardisation of fat content
- Sterilisation or Pasteurisation
Sterilisation is important because:
- it removes all microorganisms
- it allows longer shelf life
Pasteurisation is important because:
- it eliminates pathogens
- maintains the nutritional properties of fresh milk
Three types of pasteurisation are normally used: low, high or very high, depending on the temperature and duration of the treatment.
Microfiltration is the mechanical treatment of milk where the milk passes through ceramic filter membranes, allowing the milk to be conserved refrigerated for long periods, over 15 days after treatment.
Sweet as Honey
Beekeeping is an important sector in Piedmont characterised by the wide range of high quality honey available. In addition to producing honey, beekeeping plays an important role in maintaining the natural and agricultural equilibrium.
Piedmont's diversified production of honey is thanks to its incredibly rich and variable flora. There are also widespread geographical areas particularly suited for this, situated in the valleys (Grana, Lanzo, Ossolano and Sangone) and territories like Biella and Roero in the Province of Cuneo.
Honey is a sweet substance produced by bees in a natural cycle with minimal human intervention. Technically, when it comes to honey we have to distinguish between:
- blossom honey or nectar: the sugary liquid collected by bees in flowers or in non-reproductive parts of the plant.
- honeydew: a substance produced by certain insects that suck the sap from leaves which is then collected by bees and transformed into honey.
The transformation into honey is a small miracle of nature, performed by bees through their glandular secretions which contain sugar-modifying enzymes.
We eat honey because:
- it is a natural sweetening agent
- it is a sugar substitute
- it has renowned anti-bacterial properties
Not just Honey
While pollen is not used in the production of honey, it is used as a high-protein food given to young bees. Once collected by the beekeeper, the pollen is dried and vacuum-stored. It is an excellent supplement.
This product consists of resinous and balsamic substances collected by bees, especially on the barks of some trees, and is processed in the hive together with other secretions. It is known for its antibiotic properties.
Produced by the glandular secretions of bees (to nourish the larvae and queen bee) and is collected by specialised beekeepers at the moment of maximum concentration. It has a high concentration of energy and other beneficial substances.
In the hive, the honeycomb cells are built to house larvae, honey and pollen. Beeswax is used to make candles and sculptures, but it is also used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Liquid or Crystallised?
When we think of honey, we imagine a dense liquid product. This, however, is not always the case, or rather, this is the physical state only during extraction. Later in fact, the honey crystallises: excess sugars precipitate in the form of crystals. It should be noted that crystallisation is not a negative process but represents the natural evolution of almost all types of honey.
In all Colours
Undoubtedly, one of the fastest ways to recognise honey is by its colour. As is widely known, some honeys are transparent in colour, for example maple, and others are darker such as chestnut honey, which is very dark. In between, there are infinite shades of yellow-gold, depending on the flower the honey comes from.
How to recognise good quality honey:
- by the colour, which corresponds to its botanical origin
- by its aroma and taste
- by the crystallization
How to store honey:
- store jars in a cool, dry place
- do not expose to direct sources of light
- do not subject to extreme temperature changes
When the earth yields good fruits
The production of fruits and vegetables in Piedmont occupies a surface area of more than 50,000 hectares, corresponding to 5% of cultivated lands.
It is an important sector for Piedmont's agri-food economy, characterised by the quality of the products offered, with some outstanding prized products like the Piedmont Hazelnut IGP, Cuneo Chestnut IGP and hundreds of other PAT products.
Eating fruits and vegetables is beneficial because they:
- are rich in vitamins and minerals that are vital for our metabolism
- contain useful fibres that regulate intestinal activity
- are low in fats and generally low in calories
- possess useful antioxidants to combat free radicals
- contain a lot of water
The colors of health
Fruits and vegetables present themselves to our eyes with bright and vibrant colors. But the color in fruit and vegetables has not only an aesthetic value: it corresponds to specific properties that are very useful for our body.
Sweet or very sweet fruit?
When eating fruit, you should pay attention to the sugar content. Though it is true that many fruits have a high water content some, such as peaches or figs, have fruity pulp and are high in calories, affecting our daily intake
We eat seasonal fruit and vegetables
There are many advantages for those who choose to eat what nature offers according to its rhythms: link with the territory, environmental impact, nutritional values, flavor.
Listen to the produce of our land
When buying fruit and vegetables always read the label as you will get information on their origin and whether they are quality products.
In case of loose fruits and vegetables, this information should be clearly visible and displayed near the goods themselves.
It's also best to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables for the bond with the territory, environmental impact, nutritional values and tastes. Nonetheless, also allow your senses to guide you:
- the colour should be bright and intense
- the aroma can tell you how ripe the fruit is
- the consistency: the peel should be smooth and the leaves tender not dry
- if possible taste it and ask your favourite shop attendant for advice.
Raw or cooked?
When possible, fruit and vegetables are best eaten raw. In fact, cooking causes the products to lose some beneficial elements found in the raw products.
Otherwise, choose light cooking methods that preserve the organoleptic qualities and nutrients of fruit and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetables in your pantry
Fruits and vegetables can be stored in the special crisper compartment of your fridge at a temperature of 4-5°C. They may also be kept at room temperature for a limited time. A lot depends on the type of product: the more delicate ones like cherries, peaches or salads are better kept in the fridge and others like potatoes or dried fruits, may be stored at room temperature.
Tell me what eggs you eat…
Piedmont is one of the top Italian regions for poultry production. There are in fact about 250 poultry farms and 150 egg-producing hen farms for a total of 25,000,000 units: a real army of hens ready to satisfy our demands for fresh eggs!
Only eat guaranteed eggs produced in the poultry farms of our region as you can be sure they are safe. A series of controls carried out by the health authorities ensures the maximum safety of our eggs.
Eggs are rich in nutritive elements that are found in many foodstuffs, from fresh pasta to cakes.
What chicken eggs are composed of:
- the shell that is hard, fragile and porous, and makes up 10% of its weight
- the external membrane that sticks to the interior of the shell
- the internal membrane wrapping the egg white
- the egg white that makes up 60% of the weight
- the yok that makes up 30% of the weight
Each egg bears a code on its shell indicating:
- how the hens were raised
- where the egg comes from (state, province, municipality)
- from what type of farm the egg was taken
Fresh eggs of the day
When buying eggs, it is recommended you choose packaged products that ensure the consumption of controlled foodstuffs.
Take note of the expiry date and consider that eggs may be stored in the fridge for a maximum of 28 days from the date of laying.
To understand whether an egg is really fresh the yolk should be:
- perfectly round
- compact and very firm
- without stains
To see if an egg is really fresh, the egg white should:
- have optimum density
- be clear and limpid
Meat may be white (veal, pork, lamb, goat, chicken, turkey and rabbit), red (adult bovine, adult sheep and goats, horse meat, etc.) or black (game).
This difference in colour does not depend on the quantity of blood but on a protein called myoglobin, the concentration of which depends on the age and feed: the younger the animal, the less myoglobin is present.
Meats on sale are equipped with a traceability system so you can see the entire supply chain from the factory of origin of the animals all the way up to the retail of the product.
This is an important sector for our Region since it covers 10% of the national volume. Besides direct consumption, pork meat is used for derivates which are the products of utmost quality such as the Cuneo Prosciutto and the Hunters' Salami (both bearing the Protected Geographic Origin Label), besides many other Traditional Agrifood Products (PAT).
Piedmont ranks third in the national production of rabbit meat with points of excellence consisting in the Grey Rabbit of Carmagnola.
Sheep and goat meat
This well-established tradition is linked to many territorial realities, both regarding meat production as well as the dairy-cheese sector. There are varied prized breeds, like the Sambucana, Biellese, and the Italian Alpine goats of Vigezzo Valley.
How to store meat
Meat should be stored in the fridge for the time necessary if eaten quickly, so as to preserve the nutritional and organoleptic characteristics as much as possible.
Meat aimed at consumption raw, must be consumed the same day on which it was bought. Slightly longer time frames may be allowed for cold cuts and particularly for roasts or boiled meats. Using vacuum-pack bags may conserve it for a few days.
If you decide to freeze the meat, it is recommended to cut it into single-use portions. The best way to cook is then directly from the freezer to the pan; alternatively the product can be defrosted in the fridge.
Fish: the healthy choice
A land of rivers and lakes, Piedmont has an impressive fish production that amounts to about 2,500 tons per year.
Our region boasts a number of extremely prestigious fish such as trout, tench, eels, and carps, thanks to a widespread network of aquiculture plants with prized products like the Pianalto di Poirino Golden Humped Tench of DOP from the Province of Turin.
We can also boast three PAT (Piedmont Agrifood Products) such as the smoked Salmon Trout and soused fish, a typical dish prepared with vinegar, wine and other aromatic herbs (also used for meats and eggs).
Fish in barrels
A particular tradition of the south of Piedmont regards fish preserved in salt: particularly anchovies in the Maira Valley, in the Province of Cuneo.It would appear that in the past salt imported from Liguria was "enhanced" with ¼ anchovies to avoid the high tax rates.
Eat a lot of fish because
- it is a great source of protein
- it protects us from cardiovascular diseases
- it is easy to digest since it has very little connective tissue
- it is rich in mineral salts like iodine, zinc, calcium, selenium, and phosphorous
- it is high in vitamins
- prevents cholesterol in the blood
... it is seasonal
This really is no cliché, as also fish can be bought according to the season. This is an important aspect because with the increased consumption of fish, the catch decreases year after year risking the extinction of certain species. One solution is to avoid buying the same most popular fish all of the time (trout, bass, gilthead, grouper, etc.)
Vary your shopping depending on the offers of the season.
The aroma of fish
Fresh sea-water fish has the unmistakable aroma of brine, reminiscent of the sea. When not caught fresh on the same day, one can note hints of ammoniac and rancidity, especially in fish with a higher fat content such as sardines or mackerel.
Wine: a matter of labels
Piedmont has a viticulture production of the utmost quality, besides that of quantity. In fact we offer a choice of 41 DOC and 18 DOCG wines, between red, white and rosè wines, sparkling champagnes, and dry or sweet passito wines: the very expression of this territory thanks to their close connection to this land, its climate and the work of vine growers.
You can buy Piedmont wines at:
- mass retail chains
- food shops
- cooperative cellars
- directly from the producer
Each company is listed in the community farming register citing all cultivated vineyards, whether they are the property of the farmer or those cultivated by a wine producer who cultivates a vineyard under lease.
As well as the vineyards themselves, all wines qualified for production are registered, meaning all DOCG and DOC labels.
DOC and DOCG denominations
DOC and DOCG are denominations found on the label and the wine tag and certify the origin of the wines we drink, while guaranteeing a series of minimum obligatory requirements.
Every bottle of DOC or DOCG wine produced and sold in Piedmont has to bear a strip on its neck which is not to be confused with the label guaranteeing the traceability of the wine from the vineyard of origin.
The strips are printed by the State Polygraph and cite a number through which one can retrace the origin of the product, thus ensuring traceability, that is, the ability to trace the wine all the way back to the vineyard that produced it.
Like those for other products, wine labels provide a series of information allowing us to identify the production chain of the wines we drink.
Wine producers have the option of adding certain information to the label, depending on the individual production regulations which represent the norms and indications the producer is obliged to comply with to obtain a DOC or DOCG wine.
Raise your goblet....Cheers!
Over the years we have become more aware in our wine consumption. When choosing one wine rather than another, this is because of an informed choice on the part of the consumer taking into account the organoleptic characteristics, the type of food pairing, the producer, etc..
Choosing wines on the basis of:
- vinification method
- origin of the vine cultivar
- the advice of a guide or expert
For the best results possible, wine must be conserved with care, in a cellar with a temperature that is constant between 15 and 18°C, without direct sources of light. Serving temperature depends on the type of wine.
Wine may also be bought directly from the barrel.
In this case it would be advisable to buy it from trustworthy retailers, wineries or cooperative cellars, with a proven reputation for excellence.