French escargot producers complained Wednesday about an invasion of their market by cheap imitations and formed a group to alert discriminating snail-eaters.
“French gastronomy is being usurped,” said snail kingpin Roland Romanzini.
Nine producers of the delicacy from France’s escargot heartland--the Burgundy and Doubs regions near the Swiss border--formed a group called the Escargot Masters of France to protect buyers and themselves from falsely labeled products, said Romanzini, a spokesman for the group.
“It doesn’t matter to us that people are eating low-quality escargots, but we want to make sure they know that is what they are eating.”
He said members will put the group’s logo on their jars to assure buyers that they are getting the traditional French product and not imitations from Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia and the Far East, particularly Taiwan.
He said copies are often labeled Escargots de Bourgogne--Burgundy snails--which is a reference to their preparation rather than where they are gathered.
Traditional Burgundy snails generally are imported from Eastern Europe but are cooked and prepared with garlic, butter and parsley in France. Nearly all the 4 million snails consumed annually in France are imported.
“We import our snails live and do all the work here,” Romanzini said.
“There are many producers now who buy them frozen in the shell, prepare them and then freeze them again for preservation. There are others who prepare them almost completely in Greece or Turkey, then have butter added to them here and sell them as a product of France.”
He said that lower labor costs allow foreign producers to sell snails at half the cost of French escargots but that inferior preparation reduces their quality.