For hundreds of years, Italian craftsmen have been making some of the world’s finest cured meat. But for the past 40 years or so, much of it has been ineligible for import into the United States because of fears of a dangerous ailment called swine vesicular disease. Last Friday, however, the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) decreed that pigs in the regions of Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, and Piemonte, as well as the provinces of Trento and Bolzano, are free of the disease, and starting May 28 both fresh and cured pork from those regions will now be cleared for import.
The New York Times today reported that "Inspection Services did not specify what standards would now have to be met by Italian producers, nor the expense of meeting them," but assumed that the relaxed laws would "change a way of life for many delicacy-loving tourists and Italian-Americans, who have smuggled in Italian salamis for private consumption, and sometimes for sale."
We reached out to the APHIS ourselves, however, and unfortunately smugglers will still be smugglers after the new rules go into effect.
"These products will not be allowed in personal passenger baggage or carry-on," a representative from the agency confirmed to us. "Importers that ship to the U.S. for commercial use will be able to obtain the appropriate certification allowing the entry of these products into the U.S."
It’s still not clear exactly what that certification will be, or if this means that all the little artisanal producers will now be able to export to the States or if they’ll still need USDA approval, but two things are certain: more Italian meat is headed for the U.S., and it’s not allowed in your suitcase.
Chef Michael White, of New York’s Marea and Osteria Morini, told us that he’s happy that the laws are relaxing, but was concerned that it might have an effect on American production. "I’m afraid that no one’s going to be making it here anymore," he told us. "In my Hong Kong restaurant we were able to take advantage of so many Italian meats, but not here so much. It’s really spectacular stuff."
When he had time to think about it, though, White changed his mind. "Actually, it probably won’t have too much of a negative effect," he added. "The animals here are too good."