Italy has asked the European Commission for permission to require country of origin labels for the wheat in pasta sold in the country. Canadian exporters of durum, or hard pasta wheat, are concerned.
The Italian government had advised Brussels of its intent to ask for the permission last December, but it was only this week that the formal step was taken.
Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina on Monday wrote "After milk, more transparency on labels for rice and pasta. Initiated Brussels procedure for indications of origin."
The information on the pasta packet labels would include details of where the wheat was grown and where it was milled.
If accepted, the new regulations would require Italian pasta makers to segregate supplies by country of origin.
According to Italy's Organization of Pasta Manufacturers UNAFPA, Italy is by far the world's largest producer of pasta with 3.2 million tonnes, followed by the United States with two million tons. Italian pasta companies currently use a mix of about 70 percent Italian and 30 percent imported durum wheat. Italian farmers grow about four million tons of durum wheat each year.
In 2014, Barilla - one of Italy's biggest pasta producers - began using only durum wheat grown in southern Italy for its premium brand, Voiello. It was following a growing trend of smaller pasta producers to use only Italian-grown wheat.
According to Canadian government data, Italy is currently Canada's second-biggest foreign buyer of durum wheat. The southern European country bought 522,000 tonnes between last August and March this year and annual sales are estimated at C$248 million (167 million euros.)
Canadian exporters and farmers are worried: "It's something that causes us significant concern because it will increase the cost of moving durum into Italy," said Cam Dahl, president of industry group Cereals Canada.
The European Commission has yet to receive official notification from Italy, it reported on Wednesday. When the application is received, the EC would then have three months to make observations and if there were none, Italy would be free to go ahead with its plans.
Italy's application comes after the European Parliament voted in favor of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA.) The EU national parliaments must approve CETA before it can take full effect.