TED Case Studies
Number xxx, 2004
by Todd Konieczka
The Pizza Police:

Italy's Regulation of Neapolitan Pizza Production

General Information
Legal Cluster
Bio-Geographic Cluster
Trade Cluster
Environment Cluster
Other Clusters

Mandala Home
Trade Environment Database
Inventory of Conflict and Environment
Global Classroom
Environment, Statistics and Policy
Site Map

TED Home Page About TED Research Projects Sort


Cases Issue Papers Site Index

I. Identification

1. The Issue

On Wednesday, May 25th Italian Agriculture Minister Gianni Alemanno traveled to Naples to commemorate the new legal regulations "regarding the STG (Guaranteed Traditional Specialty) seal of quality for Neapolitan pizza" (Italy Global Nation). The standards, printed in the nation's Gazzetta Ufficiale, now govern the shape, dimensions, ingredients, and even the way Neapolitan pizzas are made. It is unclear how the Italian authorities will be enforcing these new rules, though they have caused quite a stir in pizzerias throughout Italy, as well as the world. Many believe that these regulations are simply a means by which Italy might increase its exports. However, the Italian government claims that it is protecting the quality of what it calls a 'cultural commodity.' These measures represent "the first step towards including the Neapolitan pizza among products recognised by the European Union as guaranteed traditional specialities" (Buzzle.com). While pizza production is not the sole domain of Italian pizzerias, the regional distinction of Neapolitan-style pizzas might be recognized internationally in the near future.

2. Description

Contrary to popular belief, Italians did not 'invent' the pizza, though they may certainly be credited with perfecting the dish. The actual origin of pizza has been clouded by legends and divergent accounts. What historians have discerned is that during the height of the Roman Empire, the peoples of Greece, Egypt, the Levant, and even Bablyon commonly ate flat, unleaven bread covered with herbs and spices. In particular, the Greeks were among the first to "bake large, round and flat breads which they topped with ... olive oils, spices, potatoes, and other things" (InMamasKitchen.com). These early "pizza breads" probably served a dual purpose in ancient times - they were relatively cheap to make, using readily available ingredients, and were a useful and nutrious medium by which to eat everyday foods (thus little mess and waste). These pita-like breads laid the foundation for the modern-day pizza.

According to one legend, the pizza first 'arrived' in Italy when "Roman soldiers returning from Palestina, where they had been compelled to eat matzoh among the Palestinian Jews, developed a dish called picea upon gratefully returning to the Italian peninsula" (Verace Pizza Napoletana). However, pizza did not become popular meal in the country until the 1700s. Throughout Italian cities, street vendors with mobile ovens would sell cheap, plain pizzas, with little or no toppings. These pizzas were quite filling, thus the food was extremely popular among Italy's poor. These pizzas were still lacking two key ingredients that are essential in pizzas today -- namely tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. The tomato was actually introduced to Europe by Spanish soldiers, who returned from Latin America with them. At first the fruit was considered poisonous, however it slowly gained acceptance as an edible food. Similarly, the Indian water buffalo, from whose milk mozzarella cheese is made from, wasn't introduced to Italy until the 18th century (Pizza-Pedia).

In the late 1800s, Italy's King Umberto and Queen Margherita toured their kingdom, arriving in Naples' Campania region. As the Queen explored the city, she noticed the peasantry eating pizzas, and decided to try one herself. She was impressed by the taste of the dish, and called upon a local pizza-maker, Rafaelle Esposito, to make a variety of pizzas for her. "To honor the Queen ... Rafaelle decided to make a very special pizza just for her. He baked a pizza topped with tomatoes, mozarella cheese, and fresh basil (to represent the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green)" (InMamasKitchen.com). This became the Queen's favorite pizza, and it now bears her name. Because the Queen enjoyed pizzas so much, it became popular throughout Italy, even among the aristocracy, who initially balked at the idea of eating 'peasant food.'

Pizzas have evolved since Queen Margherita's visit to Naples centuries ago, with many varieties and combinations found around the world. In an effort to implement a degree of uniformity, and 'stake its claim' in what is seen as a cultural commodity, the Italian government has recently imposed a series of regulations that will specify what can and cannot be called a Neapolitan pizza. So far, they only recognize three types of Neapolitan pizzas, Marinara (garlic and oregano), Margherita (basil and mozzarella cheese), and extra-Margherita (tomatoes, basil, and buffalo mozzarella). According to these rules, "Neapolitan pizza [s] must be round, no more than 14 inches in diameter, [and] no thicker that 0.1 inches in the middle, with a crust [of] about 0.8 inches thick" (CNN). Furthermore, the pizza's dough must be kneaded manually and must be baked in a wood-fired oven. All the ingredients in an 'authentic' Neapolitan pizza, such as tomatoes, flour, yeast, and cheese, must come from Italy. "The cheese on the classic pizza margherita must be mozzarella "from the southern Apennines" and ... the mozzarella [on a pizza extra-margherita] needs to be from buffalo milk" (Buzzle.com). By following these regulations, pizza-makers are allowed to label their pizzas as 'guaranteed traditional specialties' and truly Neapolitan.

Even though some ingredients found in Neapolitan pizza are not truly native to Italy, it appears that the Italian government is attempting to 'copyright' the pizzas. This move has sparked minor protests outside of Italy, such as the one conducted by Domino Pizza franchisees in London, but appears to fall within European Union guidelines. However, the author of the The Pizza Book, Evelyne Slomon, is skeptical that the Italians can claim pizza in its entirety. ""What are they going to do? Go after every pizzeria in the world?" Not only would that effort be futile, [but] for the Italians to claim [that] pizza ... was born of their hands is bogus" (PizzaMarketPlace.com).

3. Related Cases (In order from most relevant to least relevant):

German Beer Purity Law

Morocco and Olives

Parmigiano-Reggiano: The "King" of Cheeses

Feta 2: The Feta Cheese Wars

India Tea and Environment

Uruguay Rice Exports and the Environment

Walleye and Trade

Thai Shrimp Farming

Coffee Exports from Costa Rica

Ethiopian Coffee Trade

4. Author and Date: Todd Konieczka (July 6, 2004)

II. Legal Clusters

During the World Trade Organization's 1994 Uruguay Round, 147 participating governments agreed on a set of guidelines to protect national intellectual property and geographic indicators (GIs - names indicative a specific geographic location). This agreement, known as "TRIPS" (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), has three important articles specifically related to the protection of GIs. The website Campusprogram.com, an online university and employment resource, aptly describes each of these three articles as such:

During the Doha Development Round in 2002, participating governments began negotiating for the creation of a "multilateral register" of GIs. The European Union has proposed extending the TRIPS agreement to include a number of other goods within this multilateral registry, including agricultural and food products. However the EU's proposal is controversial, and would certainly benefit the EU and a few non-EU countries, while potentially harming producers in other countries. Already, GI designations have increased demand for European wines; perhaps the EU hopes to capitalize on this designation to increase its exports and reduce its farm subsidies.

The EU already protects a myriad of agricultural and food items within its 25-nation union. Products such as parma ham and scotch lamb, are protected by a two-level labelling system, "protection of designation of origin" (PDOs) and "protection of geographical indications" (PGIs). The former, the highest level of protection, "covers the term used to describe foodstuffs that are produced, processed, and prepared in a given geographical area using recognized know-how" (U.S.D.A. Economic Research Service). The latter, PGI protection, can only be imposed if there is a least one stage of "production, processing, or preparation" that can be linked to a particular geographical area. The EU hopes to extend this system internationally.

Though, "extending GI protection to generic names of food products other than wines and spirits is beyond current TRIPS rules (Article 22 protection does not apply to generic names)" (U.S.D.A. Economic Research Service). Furthermore, it would complicate international law. Some would argue that certain product names are generic (even common), while others would argue that they're regionally specific. Europeans will even contest "derivations and Anglicized" product names that are European in origin. If the EU's proposal is accepted by the WTO, it might "create gridlock and confusion in U.S. supermarkets aisles and force American companies to spend hundreds of millions repackaging and rebranding their products" (USA Today - Names).

Will this be the fate of pizza? Will geographic indicators stretch the limits of one's imagination? Caught up in international law and renamed to meet multilateral obligations. Most commentators do not think so. As mentioned earlier, pizza has its origins in no one particular country. Italy may have perfected the pizza, but it has not inherited its title. Italy may win a legal battle for EU PDO recogniztion of Neapolitan pizza, but this seems unlikely on the world stage. Pizzas are found everywhere and are made in a variety of ways, quite different from Italian bakers. As one MSNBC reporter stated, "the definition of pizza has been stretched far more than the dough could ever be" (MSNBC).

5. Discourse and Status: Disagreement and In Progress

6. Forum and Scope: EU and Multilateral

7. Decision Breadth: Throughout the 25 members of the European Union

8. Legal Standing: Treaty

III. Geographic Clusters

9. Geographic Locations

a. Geographic Domain: Europe

b. Geographic Site: Western Europe

c. Geographic Impact: Italy

10. Sub-National Factors: No

11. Type of Habitat: Temperate

IV. Trade Clusters

A number of newspaper articles have suggested that Italy's attempt to standardize Neapolitan pizzas is nothing more than a "strategy to increase the country's food exports" (PizzaMarketPlace.com). Indeed, Italy trades internationally a number of agriculture products associated with pizzas cultivated in the country's southern regions - namely tomatoes and cheeses (especially buffalo mozzarella). The country has only recently been introduced to the idea of frozen, microwavable pizzas, and is slowly warming up to the concept. Thus, the country has not been a leading exporter of frozen pizzas.

Information on overall Italian cheese exports, nevermind buffalo mozzarella cheese, is quite limited. Though here are some interesting facts:

Unlike cheese exports, information concerning Italian tomato exports is slightly more prolific. Yet, regional tomato production statistics are difficult to come by.

Table 1 The top ten exporters of cheese and curds (In US Dollars):
$1.87 billion
The Netherlands
$1.7 billion
$1.55 billion
$940 million
$921 million
New Zealand
$545 million
$489 million
$428 million
$336 million
$305 million
[Source: World Trade Organization: International Trade Centre]

Table 2 The top ten importers of cheese and curds (In US Dollars):
$1.85 billion
$1.1 billion
United Kingdom
$959 million
United States
$835 million
$777 million
$678 million
$575 million
$456 million
The Netherlands
$348 million
$272 million
[Source: World Trade Organization: International Trade Centre]

12. Type of Measure: Geographic Indication

13. Direct v. Indirect Impacts: Direct

14. Relation of Trade Measure to Environmental Impact

a. Directly Related to Product: Yes, Cheese

b. Indirectly Related to Product: No

c. Not Related to Product: No

d. Related to Process: Yes, Culture

15. Trade Product Identification: Pizza

16. Economic Data

17. Impact of Trade Restriction: Medium

18. Industry Sector: Food

19. Exporters and Importers: Italy and Many

V. Environment Clusters

20. Environmental Problem Type:

The environmental concerns of this case study are notably cultural in nature. Since the late 1800s, pizzas have been cooked in a variety of ways, using many different ingredients. The pizza "craze" soon spread beyond Italy's borders to other European countries. Just as french fries became a craze with U.S. soldiers following World War I; after World War II, American GIs returned home from the Italian war front with a penchant for the Italian dish. By the late 1950s, pizzerias became a common site in the Western world.

While pizzas are made throughout the world, they are universally regarded as Italian cuisine and the city of Naples is commonly referred to as the birthplace of the dish. The city, which lends its name to Neapolitan pizzas, is located in a relatively poor region of Italy known as Campania. However, the new pizza regulations set forth by the central government may soon boost the local economies of this and other southern regions. As noted earlier, for a pizza to be 'truly Neapolitan,' it must use ingredients that come from Italy. Basil and mozzarella cheese must come from the southern Apennine mountains of Italy. And on an extra-Margherita Neapolitan pizza, the basil and buffalo mozzarella must specifically come from the Campania region.

Buffalo mozzarella is primarily derived from water buffalo milk. Even though the animals are not native to southern Italy, they have easily adapted to its rough, hot, and fairly dry environment. Water buffalo can vary in size throughout the world, dependent on whether animal feed is scarce. Thus, they can be as small as "350kg, high in the Himalyans, to 800kg in Bulgaria and Italy" (BuffaloMilk.co.uk). Despite these numbers, the buffalo are able to survive on usually very little feed and small grazing areas. They even give off less ammonia-nitrogen than traditional cattle, though this does not mean that the animals give off no pollution off at all. It is up to government regulators and farm owners to curtail noxious emissions and waste, as well as the buffalos' tendency to destroy hegdes and gates. For the most part, the animals are disease-resistant and have a relatively modest life span (around 20 years). And according to BuffaloMilk.co.uk's website, there are over 150 million water buffalo worldwide (thus they are not endangered).

Another environmental factor that should be addressed in this case study is the fact that the new government regulations stipulate that Neapolitan pizzas must be only cooked using wood-fired ovens. This will significantly increase CO2 emissions in Italy and elsewhere. Though this may arguably be countered by vegetation and trees, which rely on CO2. Wood ovens tend to utilize wood efficiently, and are less polluting than some industrial ovens, but their use still promotes greater wood consumption. Europe's forests have dwindled in size since prehistoric times, it would be unfortunate for them to increase logging to accommodate a regional delicacy.

The impact that these new rules will have on the local Italian environment and economy has yet to be seen. It has been estimated by the Italian news agency ANSA that there are a total of "23,000 pizza restaurants in Italy -- which make 56 million pizzas each week -- about 200 would seek the [government's Neapolitan] certification immediately" (CNN). Yet, not all are happy with these new rules. As referred to earlier, one young Domino's franchisee in London was irate at the news. ""It made me feel angry they'd try to do such a thing," said [Antony] Tagliamonti.... He said he's heard rumors of authentication squads moving throughout Europe, seeking non-compliant pizzerias" (Pizza Marketplace). It response to the new regulations, Tagliamonti started a petition against the new pizza rules and organized a protest in front on the Italian Embassy in London. In essence, he believes that his pizzas are not "an inferior product."

21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species

22. Resource Impact and Effect: Low and Structural

23. Urgency and Lifetime: Low and Hundreds of Years

24. Substitutes: Like Products

VI. Other Factors

25. Culture:

26. Trans-Boundary Issues:

27. Rights:

28. Relevant Literature

  • AboutPizza.com

  • BBC News

  • Buzzle.com

  • Campus Program

  • CNN

  • Dolphins: Development of Origin Labelled Products

  • InMamasKitchen.com

  • Instituto de Pesquisa Economica Aplicada

  • Italy Global Nation


  • Pizza Marketplace

  • Pizza-Pedia

  • USA Today - Names

  • USA Today - Pizza Rules

  • U.S.D.A. Economic Research Service

  • U.S.D.A. Foreign Agriculture Service

  • U.S.D.A. Foreign Agriculture Service: Global Agriculture Information Network Report 2004

  • Verace Pizza Napoletana

  • World Trade Organization: International Trade Centre