Italy’s Ministry of Health has passed a bill that bans the use of chemical additives and liquid nitrogen from restaurant kitchens.
What they want to achieve is to exclude the “chemical additives” used in “Molecular cuisine” (as referred to by the Italian Ministry of Health’s secretary Francesca Martini) from the restaurant food.
Video of Francesca Martini where she explains and signs the new act (only in italian) Update 2011: This video has been removed from Youtube because of “Copyright issues”. Yeah right.
Italy hereby says that “for the security of its citizens” it wants to eliminate, and make it no longer possible for restaurants to use certain additives (which will still be allowed in the industrial food processing though).
Many of these additives are commonly referred to as “powders” – of which one of the most famous brand is the “Texturas”-line from Albert and Ferran Adrià .
Italy’s cuisine is based on tradition, and tradition alone, so it definately can’t be considered a stronghold for avant-garde cuisine or innovative cooking.
The so-called molecular cuisine has been widely debated in national tv and a lot of Italy’s famous chefs hold a hostile attitude towards this “science based cooking” – accusing it of “ruining an already perfect cuisine”.
The government is also trying to ban the use of liquid nitrogen, calling it a “gaseous substance”.
Of course things like liquid nitrogen (used in the kitchen to freeze foods instantaneously by submerging into this extremely cold liquid) should always be handled with due care, but I can’t really see why the liquid nitrogen would be considered hazardous enough to be banned from the restaurant kitchens.
Unless accidentally stored in a sealed container (which would go KABOOM!) there’s no reason why liquid nitrogen would be any more dangerous than a pot of boiling hot oil for deep frying – something used everyday in Italy’s restaurant kitchens.
So that’s what they wanted to do, how unfortunate that the Health Ministery guys didn’t attend their chemistry lessons in school. The government tries to stop the use of liquid nitrogen by legislating against the “storage and use of any gaseous substance”.
Then too bad for them that liquid nitrogen is, that’s right, a liquid! And if that’s not enough they accidentally excluded liquid nitrogen again from being banned with the small paragraph “it is prohibited to keep and use gaseous substances, except food additives”.
Within the European Union nitrogen is classified as a food additive, with its own code E941, therefore OK to use.
And do they want to sweep the kitchens clean of any gases? There’s a variety of gases used in the kitchens today, the carbon dioxide used in the soda siphon, the butane used in the gas torch for the crème brûlée, and even the pan of boiling water produces gas.
The whole thing feels like an outrageous publicity stunt from the government in a country where tradition reigns supreme.
A way to regain people’s (and voters’) confidence promising them to protect italian products and have restaurants serve fresh and healthy food, pointing out the ones that embrace the latest techniques and new ingredients as the bad guys.
In the end it’s a bogus law made by people that do not understand.
Cheer up – the new law is only valid for less than a year anyway (its expiry date is on the 31st December 2010)!
Link to the official law text on the “Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana” Update 2011: As suspected, this text has now been removed from their site without any referral to an updated text or a new similar act.