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Is USDA lifting its ban on Italian cured meats?

April 28, 2013|By Jonathan Gold
  • A few slices of prosciutto.
A few slices of prosciutto. (Ken Hively )

Are weeks gray without a sliver of Tuscan lardo? Do you crave coppa made from Cinta Senese pigs? Have you ever considered attaching a gold chain to a whole prosciutto in an attempt to persuade a customs inspector that it was a kicky Fendi bag?

You may be in luck. According to the Italian wire service ANSA, the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services announced Friday that the long-standing USDA ban on the import of Italian cured meats will be lifted starting May 28, and presumably the flood of salami, bresaola and pancetta will start washing into U.S. markets and restaurants not long thereafter.

The USDA lifted its absolute ban on Italian raw, cured meat products in 1989, when prosciuttos from Parma and San Daniele were allowed back into the United States after a 22-year absence, and the rules since then have generally allowed the import of hams and salamis from plants large enough to follow USDA regulations and to bear the expense of full-time, onsite USDA inspectors. There is a huge array of Italian cured meats, many of them crafted by small, artisanal producers, that have never been available in the U.S.

"Am I happy?" asks Osteria Mozza proprietor Nancy Silverton, upon being informed of the reported end of the ban. "Absolutely. We get pretty good prosciutto now but there are so many great small producers over there, and we’ve never been able to get culatello."

The details of the FDA decision and its implications are still as fuzzy as the rind on a Genoa salami, but this could be great news for discerning carnivores.

[Updated: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the FDA imposed and then lifted the ban. The correct government agency is the USDA.]

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