Farmhouse cheeses, local cured meats, “Marseille” soaps or even “Laguiole” knives are often the subject of counterfeiting.
Ah, this Provençal olive oil looks delicious and catches the eye in this small market in the village where you are spending your holidays… And it’s certainly worth its price, a bit salty of course, but authentic and artisan, it pays out , you think. Are you sure? Every year, scams involving so-called “local” products are tracked down by authorities and consumer protection associations. Here are some guidelines to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Look at the label rather than the box or stand
Traders sometimes go to great lengths to convince you that their products are truly local: checkered tablecloths, products laid out on straw, the French flag or regional coat of arms, references to “natural”… But all these external signs guarantee you nothing the quality or authenticity of the product. Rather trust the label, where any lie can be prosecuted.
Beware of honey, which is the subject of many counterfeits and very often comes from abroad with the addition of flavors or glucose. The beekeeper’s address and the indication “French origin” or a red label, AOP or IGP, are good guarantees on the label.
Note that there are many AOP and AOC French olive oils listed on this website. In addition, if the words “European Union” or “outside the EU” are engraved, they are not French olives.
Watch the sellers
Some traders act as producers to sell so-called “farmer’s” cheese or “homemade” sausages in the markets. But the 60 million consumers’ association tracks down these “disguised traders” who sell nougat for three months, then cured meats, each time claiming that it’s their own production that offers the buyer a guarantee of authenticity and terroir. In reality, they sell industrial products.
Buy directly from the producer
In order to get real products from the region, nothing beats the way to the source: on the farm, from the beekeeper or in a dairy cooperative. Most tourist offices can give you information and give you the addresses of artisans or where to buy them.
You can also go to one of the many “country producer markets” organized throughout the year in the four corners of the country. They are governed by a charter and you will only find producers using local raw materials.
Check the official pages
You can inquire upstream to spot scams. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture has drawn up the list of 46 AOP cheeses in France. Before you go shopping, do not hesitate to find out about the cheeses of the region you are visiting, their seasonality and prices.
Beware of overpriced prices
According to 60 million consumers, a sold-out sausage should catch your eye. The experts surveyed by the association advise caution below 30 euros per kilo, as it does not necessarily have to be a handcrafted product made from local meat. In fact, there are costs associated with traditional manufacturing, breeding or harvesting processes. The association has put together many tips for recognizing a regional and high-quality sausage.
Here are other price ranges as a guide: French olive oils are rarely sold below 25 euros per liter, French honey is marketed between 10 and 30 euros per kilo.
Beware of fakes
Several manufactured products are not protected by designations such as Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). As a consumer, it then becomes more difficult to find your way around.
Marseille soap is not always like this and is often imported from Asia. This Marseille soap corresponds to a precise recipe but not to a geographical area. It is therefore necessary to take a look at the list of ingredients: A real Marseille soap contains no dyes or preservatives and must consist of 72% vegetable oil. If you read “sodium tallow” or “sodium lardate” on the label, you know it’s beef or lard fat and therefore a copy of traditional soap.
Even Laguiole knives are not yet protected by an IGP. They need to be watched carefully to distinguish the real ones from the fake ones. The selling price remains a good guide: at 10 euros per piece, they are likely to be copies from Asia.
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