New Law in Sicily Protects and Promotes the Mediterranean Diet

The purpose of the new law is to promote local food production, MedDiet education, wine and oleotourism, public health and environmental protection strategies.

May. 4, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis

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In a first for Italy, a new regional law in Sicily for­mal­izes the role of the Mediterranean diet as a cru­cial part of the local iden­tity.

The Mediterranean Diet Recognition and Protection Act paves the way for a plethora of pub­lic and pri­vate ini­tia­tives to boost con­sumers’ con­scious­ness about the ben­e­fits of the Mediterranean diet.

More peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing the healthy aspects of the MedDiet. What often gets neglected is the enor­mous poten­tial of the MedDiet in terms of cul­ture and envi­ron­ment. I hope this new law will help many to focus on this.- Ettore Barbagallo, author, Mediterranean diet sec­tion of the Etna Volcano Museum

The pur­pose of the new law approved by the semi-autonomous regional assem­bly is to pro­mote local agri­cul­ture and food pro­duc­tion at a national and inter­na­tional level, MedDiet edu­ca­tion, wine and oleo­tourism, enhance pub­lic health and encour­age envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion strate­gies.

Support will be given to pub­lic and pri­vate ini­tia­tives whose aim is to inform the pub­lic about the MedDiet and the cul­ture behind it. Educational cur­ric­ula for schools and uni­ver­si­ties about the diet are also included in the law.

See Also:New Rules in Italy Set Standards for Oleotourism Operators

The over­ar­ch­ing goal of the law is to for­mally rec­og­nize the spe­cific con­nec­tion between Sicily and the Mediterranean diet, defined as the pro­tec­tion of the his­tor­i­cal-cul­tural her­itage, expres­sion of the Sicilian ter­ri­tory iden­tity.”

A sus­tain­able lifestyle, respect for the land and expres­sion of the cohab­i­ta­tion of dif­fer­ent cul­tures are also cited as part of the local approach to MedDiet prin­ci­ples.

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The unique fea­ture of Sicilian food and cook­ing is that its tra­di­tion per­fectly over­laps with the prin­ci­ples of the Mediterranean diet: the choice of the ingre­di­ents, the use of locally-pro­duced food, the vari­ety of the col­ors of the local diet, which is mostly plant-based, and the extreme pop­u­lar­ity of olive oil in the house­holds,” Ettore Barbagallo, a pro­fes­sional olive oil taster and author of the Mediterranean diet sec­tion of the Etna Volcano Museum in Sicily, told Olive Oil Times.

The whole Sicilian approach to food includ­ing its social aspects, his­tor­i­cally adhere to the Mediterranean diet,” he added.

The new law also funds the cre­ation of a multi-func­tional MedDiet museum and the open­ing of ole­ou­touris­tic strades (Italian for routes), a series of ini­tia­tives con­nect­ing regions and extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion. The idea is to facil­i­tate the tourists’ dis­cov­ery of high-qual­ity local prod­ucts and their diver­sity among the dif­fer­ent regions.

Such strades already exist for the pro­mo­tion of wine pro­duc­tion. Since the new national law on oleo­tourism was enacted, olive oil-related touris­tic ini­tia­tives also are flour­ish­ing.

The new law also allows for the coop­er­a­tion between these wine and olive oil net­works with other local food pro­duc­tion chains.

The new law also aims to rein­force pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor coop­er­a­tion through the Mediterranean Diet Network Operators, which will encour­age local gov­ern­ments to work with all kinds of dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies to pro­mote the Mediterranean diet.

Furthermore, March 21 has been declared as the regional day for the Mediterranean diet as a uni­ver­sal her­itage by the new law, in explicit ref­er­ence to the diet’s inclu­sion on the list of World Intangible Heritage by UNESCO.

The law also refers to the social aspects of the Mediterranean diet, which are illus­trated at the base of the MedDiet pyra­mid.

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Photo: Oldways

That is a very inter­est­ing part of the Mediterranean diet which is often ignored,” Barbagallo said. The social role of the pyra­mid is exactly the social role of meals in Sicily and other south­ern regions of Italy, as eat­ing together expresses a unique form of social­ity that can­not be repli­cated in dif­fer­ent moments of the day, and it’s part of a healthy lifestyle.”

The new law also encour­ages local insti­tu­tions in Sicily to col­lab­o­rate with other pub­lic and pri­vate enti­ties across the Mediterranean basin to pro­mote the cul­ture of the Mediterranean diet and rein­cofrce its iden­tity across the region.

The role of extra vir­gin olive oil is rec­og­nized as cru­cial by experts in pro­tect­ing and nur­tur­ing the Mediterranean diet.

Extra vir­gin olive oil has a unique pro­file,” Barbagallo said. While olive oil is part of the tra­di­tion, more recently, Sicilians are begin­ning to explore the dif­fer­ences between the dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil. It is a trend. We see even younger gen­er­a­tions explore typ­i­cal prod­ucts, higher qual­ity prod­ucts, local prod­ucts.”

According to Barbagallo, the rea­son that MedDiet-related prod­ucts increas­ingly are appre­ci­ated is their recog­ni­tion as part of the local iden­tity.

The con­nec­tion with the ter­ri­tory is highly felt,” he said. Take, for exam­ple, Sicilian extra vir­gin olive oil, now rec­og­nized by the European Union with a Protected Geographical Indication. It is a pro­to­col which defines extra vir­gin olive oil only if locally pro­duced, a true recog­ni­tion of its con­nec­tion with the land and its cul­tures.”

Barbagallo also hinted at the need for local busi­nesses and farm­ers to fully under­stand and unleash the eco­nomic, social, healthy and envi­ron­men­tal poten­tial of the Mediterranean diet.

Many still do not seem to get the role the Mediterranean diet can play in shap­ing our future,” he said. More peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing the healthy aspects of the MedDiet. What often gets neglected is the enor­mous poten­tial of the MedDiet in terms of cul­ture and envi­ron­ment. I hope this new law will help many to focus on this.”

The vice-pres­i­dent of the regional assem­bly and first sig­na­tory of the law, Angela Foti, said the approval of such a law rep­re­sents a con­crete step 10 years after the MedDiet was included in the list of UNESCO Intangible Heritage.”

Historically, Sicily is the place where a num­ber of dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions and civ­i­liza­tions have met,” Barbagallo con­cluded. It is the exact cen­ter of the Mediterranean Sea where so many dif­fer­ent genetic codes coex­ist, tra­di­tions com­ing from many dif­fer­ent areas of the world which here have joined together, giv­ing form to a way of being, to a lifestyle which has a very spe­cial con­nec­tion to MedDiet.”



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