Italy critics trash McDonald's nationalist food bid

Fri Feb 5, 2010 10:07am EST
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By Ella Ide

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Fast food chain McDonald's has teamed up with the Italian government to cook up a hamburger with a national twist, but the unusual initiative is giving some food lovers cultural indigestion.

The "McItaly," hawked with the slogan "McDonald's speaks Italian," is made entirely of Italian DOP products (Protected Designation of Origin) and the meal's ingredients make up the colors of the Italian flag -- red, white and green.

"We're out to defend our identity and the 'Made in Italy' trademark," Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said in a statement, adding that the venture was designed to "promote the taste of Italy," particularly to young people.

"We want to give an imprint of Italian flavors to our youngsters," he said.

But the flag-flying burger, which comes with a choice of artichoke spread and Asiago cheese or onion, lettuce and smoked pancetta, has come under heavy criticism by food critics both in Italy and abroad.

Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement that promotes quality food, genuine ingredients and local produce, accused the government of undermining Italian cuisine.

"Globalizing a taste does not promote it but rather standardizes and homogenizes it," he said in an open letter in an Italian newspaper.

"This isn't about supporting Italian farmers and products, it's about making money by working with a multinational that actively takes power away from local producers," Petrini, who in 1985 failed to stop McDonald's from opening its first restaurant in Italy, told Reuters.   Continued...