Quality and origin of mountain food products: the new European label as a strategy for sustainable development
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Mountain farming provides high-quality food products due to the peculiar characteristics of the raw materials combined with traditional processing conditions. However, these products and their intrinsic characteristics are not clearly recognized by consumers on the market. Nowadays, Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) certifications include products originating in mountain areas, even if a large part of mountain foodstuff is not protected by these certifications and foods not made in mountain areas are often labeled as “mountain food products”. For this reason, the European Union has set a specific Regulation in 2012 to recognize and protect mountain food and to make the consumers safer about the origin information. The objective of this paper is twofold: firstly, it presents the recent aspects related to European legislation of mountain food product; secondly, it aims at reviewing the main features of nutritional quality and technology of dairy and meat products, as the most widespread mountain food products, and the main protocols used to evaluate the authenticity of these food products. The promotion of mountain food product through a specific label and the use of tracing methods, which are able to verify the authenticity of the origin of these products, may play a pivotal role in increasing the consumer’s loyalty towards these products and could be a way to boost a sustainable development of these economically marginal rural areas. However, the analytical protocols developed so far (stable isotopes, macro and microelements, radionuclides, spectroscopic, molecular techniques, volatile substances profile, terpenes) are in many cases still at the experimental level due to the extreme variability of the mountain origin of the products to be tested.