Commenting on the success of her idea, Erica Pini starts from the following consideration: “Today, the Italian demand for Goji berries is greater than our domestic supply, so we are forced to import this product from China. If we look at Europe – she adds – the situation is even more favourable, because Italy is the best country to grow this product, so our reference market is not only the domestic one, but it stretches across the continent”.

This implies risks: in the first months of 2020, for instance, the Italian Ministry for Health repeatedly raised the alarm on the presence of potentially harmful products on the market. In April, the independent online newspaper Il Fatto Alimentare wrote: “Recalls of Goji berries from the market are continuing due to Carbofuran (a pesticide) and Hexaconazole (a fungicide) values exceeding the limits set by the law”. Many brands were involved. The information given on the Ministry website, however, only specified the production plant and the brand, not the product origin.

People eat Goji berries because they are tasty and healthy: they have antioxidant properties, have you seen my skin?” jokes Erica, who was born in 1983. Today, the young businesswoman is working on the creation of a passport for Goji berries. In cooperation with the University of Florence, she would like to start a project to study their genetic characteristics and experiment on cryofracturing, a cold processing technology that should keep the berry properties intact. “We took part in a call for proposals by GAL, the local development agency, but we did not win. We look forward to the next ones”. The Chinese red fruit is in Italy to stay. In this “Corner of China” in Mugello, too.

They are healthy

Starting in 2004, the fruit of Goji Lycium Barbarum plants was included in the Italian Ministry for Health’s official list of vegetable extracts that can be used as antioxidant food supplements. The European Food Safety Authority considers Goji berries a safe food ingredient.

Goji berries are a natural food supplement. Their main functions are the following: combating ageing and the action of free radicals; preventing the onset of diseases; strengthening hair; lowering cholesterol; boosting metabolism and the immune system; favouring sleep; improving memory; regulating blood sugar levels and blood pressure; protecting the body from allergies and hypertension; improving muscle resistance. They are also a natural energy booster.

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