De Cecco reveals why there is a shortage of Bucatini in America

Back soon…maybe!
Photo: Melissa Home

It’s been 40 days and 40 nights since I published my review of the grand bucatini rarity in America that I found out that not only was there not only a temporary bucatini rarity nationwide, but that there was also some infamous inside-pasta-pasta drama going on behind the scenes. Specifically, I learned that a hitherto unknown pasta competitor has reported De Cecco bucatini and slightly mismatched iron content to the Food and Drug Administration – which is required to meet a certain minimum level to be sold in the US – thus halting its import into that country for a calendar year. Almost complete.

If you’ve followed so far, you know that the Food and Drug Administration insisted that iron deficiency be detected at “routine screening.” You also know that I tried to get anyone from De Cecco on the phone for about three months, but the company managed to evade me the whole time. In other words, as of February 1, I still don’t know who screwed up De Cecco, why it took so long to fix the iron deficiency and bring the bucatini back to American shelves, and most importantly, why it was so completely ignored by my, most ardent, natural fan.

But last week I received an email from the National Pasta Association, telling me that De Cecco was finally ready to speak and that the NPA itself would mediate this crucial international summit.

This morning, I got on Zoom with Giacomo Campinotti, CEO of De Cecco USA, and Paolo Consalvi, CFO of De Cecco USA, to ask my many questions about the most important puzzle of our time, as well as ask why they’ve ignored me.

I’ve been trying to contact you guys for a while!
Giacomo Campinotti: [Laughs] Yes, I want to start by saying that I am sorry for the delay in following up with you. I [think you can] Imagine that due to the sensitivity of our ongoing investigation with the FDA and resolution as we speak, we’ve decided not to make any statement at this time because of this very thing. My apologies, we know how excited you were to seek our help, and I appreciate it. The reason I’m here today is to tell you thank you for taking an interest in the situation. I know you and your mom miss Bucatini. We’re working to make sure you and your mom get a crystal clear Bucatini makeover.

Are you ready to make a statement now?
GC: We have not been able to make a statement before; We needed more insight into how the situation would evolve. What happened, you know, is that we did an FDA investigation regarding our bucatini enrichment, and they found that there was a very reasonable amount below the range, really none. It’s not harmful, but it’s not compliant. And we have to be compliant, and we know that. It happened during an epidemic that did not help us. And like all our competitors, we had a lot of problems with high demand, so we had a lot of discounts [to our SKUs]. We couldn’t really make any statement to give you a clear indication of what was going on. Now we have a clear vision and we are already solving the problem as we speak. This is the good news. I’m here today to tell you that I hope to be back in the United States very soon. The problem was solved internally. Now we need the Food and Drug Administration to sanctify it and get us off automatic suspension.

Who do you think sold you to the Food and Drug Administration?
GC: We are busy offering the highest quality pasta on the market. So as to your point of view you raise in your article, we don’t know if this is a maneuver from our competitors. And to be honest, we don’t care. We don’t do that kind of thing. We are busy offering premium quality pasta to our customers. We want to believe it was random FDA research, and with a glass half full, I’m glad they reported this issue to us and we corrected it.

So you say you don’t know? You have no idea?
GC: Not only that, I don’t know if it was a tip-off, and even if it was, I personally don’t care. We are busy delivering on our mission, which is to provide the best and highest quality pasta. We do not care. We know these things happen in the market. We personally don’t do these things, but if they do, let them do it. It’s so sad to think of wasting time doing something like this when you do it [could] You have better service to your customers. I’m not interested to know if someone is behind this plot.

Don’t you want to know? Because who is stopping them from doing it again?
GC: [Laughs] Well, if we happen to find out who it was, we will proceed accordingly. But it is not our job. Our mission is to provide the best and finest quality pasta on the market. We want to devote all our time solely to this task. But we know we need to keep an eye on some competitors, and maybe we’ll act accordingly.

What went wrong in the beginning? Why was the iron less than usual?
GC: It’s a technical question. Frankly, I don’t know. I think the specific form of cocaine may have resulted in an irregular multivitamin enrichment on the product. Maybe create this situation. It’s a really immaterial difference compared to the scales, the range. It’s really something to do with the shape of bucatini.

How is that?
GC: It is a personal claim. It’s a personal idea. I don’t have any facts to prove it, but as for your question, why we had the bucatini problem, I think that’s what it looks like – but we don’t know.

Do you think, because of the shape, that it is difficult to distribute the iron evenly?
GC: likely. It’s a specific shape, long pasta with a gap in between so it’s a personal feeling I had.

When did you realize there was a problem with the Food and Drug Administration?
Paolo Consalvi: a year ago.

GC: at the beginning of the epidemic.

computer: What happened is that, during the pandemic, even the FDA slowed down their investigations, so all things stretched. We decided to somewhat off the bucatini because we had a huge demand for the other pieces – spaghetti, and linguini. All over the world, the demand has been on the rise. But the Food and Drug Administration has also been slowed by the pandemic. That’s why it’s up to 1 year and we’re still having this unresolved issue.

GC: It did not help expedite the resolution of the case. Now we hope to finish the picture. I can’t wait to end this unfortunate event.

So the iron is there. You’re just waiting for the FDA to give you the test and approve it?
GC: yes. We internally patched the issue a few months ago and are waiting for the FDA to confirm that they will discontinue the auto-suspension of the product. Our goal is to remove the auto-suspension, thus getting the product into the United States, of course according to FDA standards, and being able to send it in like we used to do. But it is a slow process.

Perhaps this will put a little pressure on them to speed up the process. Are you willing to at least speculate about who you think I’m addressing to them? any theories?
[Both laugh.] GC: Unfortunately no. I want know. It is always good to know who your enemies are. We don’t know, and we don’t really care. We feel pity for them. If it’s a plot – I love that word – I wonder how they find time to do something miserable like this. We don’t do this. Our mission is to serve our customers with the highest quality pasta on the market.

If you had to guess, when would it be back on the shelves?
GC: Well, you can find it on the shelves, not quite as often as you are used to. I hope soon. It is only a matter of time until we can have regular stock and replenishment.

computer: At the moment, customer demand is still higher than what we have in stock.

Did people communicate about Bucatini’s whereabouts prior to publishing the article? Did they notice his absence?
computer: Your article was, ah – [makes explosion gesture]

GC: Well, there were customers who were asking for the exact discount. They would ask, “How can I order a bucatini?” We told them there was a problem. We have always been transparent with our customers.

Were you angry at the article or happy to draw attention to it?
GC: It was… mixed feelings. We were frustrated because, really, you can’t even tell how many missed sales we have for bucatini and how much product we need to get rid of something that wasn’t really our fault. But at the same time, we were glad that someone was taking care of our situation. So I appreciate it. That’s why I started this conversation with an apology. I wanted to follow up with you earlier, but the reason I didn’t do so was because we needed a clear view. We will solve this problem once and for all.

computer: For me, at first, it was a mixed feeling. But then on your Twitter I saw a girl who wanted to send you a bucatini from a competitor, and you answered, “I want De Cecco.” And I said, “Well, she’s a real fan.”

How much did you have to get rid of?
GC: Much. It was a lot. It was…some pasta.

Why can’t you sell that in Italy or anywhere else?
GC: The short answer is that the pasta rich in vitamins can only be sold in the US market and some other countries like Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Israel etc., as far as I know. For iron-deficient bucatini, we have concluded that it is less economically burdensome to destroy the items here in the US than to return the merchandise to Italy to our headquarters and then sell these returned products at a deeply discounted price to other countries that qualify for the vitamin rich requirements.

Did you tell the FDA you fixed it? Can you let me know when you hear from them?
GC: They have expected us to hurry, we are waiting for them to hurry and they are in the process of confirming. Once these processes are terminated, we will contact you and let you know. I will keep you posted on this

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