Fast-food chain McDonald's has gained an unlikely sponsor for it's new all-Italian burger - Italy's Agriculture Minister, who has had to defend himself against accusations of 'selling out' and sacrificing the country's culinary reputation by giving Government approval to the sandwich.
Defending his position, Luca Zaia said the 'McItaly burger' -- using all Italian beef, Asiago cheese and artichoke spread -- would pump £3.1 million more a month into the pockets of Italian farmers grappling with tough economic times.
But for a country that gave birth to the Slow Food movement a quarter of a century ago and prides itself on varied, delicious and healthy cuisine, Zaia's enthusiastic support of McDonald's has been hard to swallow.
It didn't help that the minister and company executives launched the new burger last month at McDonald's flagship restaurant in Rome's historic centre near the Spanish Steps, the chain's first Italian outpost.
The opening of those Golden Arches in 1986 famously inspired a relatively unknown Turin foodie, Carlo Petrini, to launch what became Slow Food -- the international movement that embraces local, organic food and home cooking over fast food.
Petrini himself has challenged Zaia and McDonald's to back up their claims of helping Italian farmers with a kilo-by-kilo account of how much farmers are actually getting paid out of the deal.
And he rejected Zaia's suggestion that the all-Italian menu would "globalise the identity of Italian agriculture."
"Taste, like identity, has value only when there are differences," Petrini said.
The opposition Democratic Party has also slammed Zaia's use of an official government seal of approval for the new burger. On the McItaly's promotional material is a seal saying: "Under the patronage of" the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry -- a highly coveted government endorsement that is more often seen on museum exhibits and cultural initiatives than fast-food containers.
"I think it's legitimate to ask if Minister Zaia is working for Italy or McDonald's," Nicodemo Oliverio, the top Democratic Party lawmaker in the lower Chamber of Deputies' agriculture commission, said.