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You Say Pasta, We Say Noodle; Promoters Knead Each Other

October 27, 1995

ROME (AP) _ Like penne not quite ``al dente,″ it’s too soon to declare peace in the world’s pasta wars.

But the combatants finally sat down together at the table _ eating gnocchetti with pesto, fusilli with zucchini, peppers and eggplant, and orecchiette with broccoli.

With such complaints as unfair subsidies and pasta dumping pushed to the side, at least temporarily, delegates at the First World Pasta Congress this week decided to knead together a strategy to increase the product’s consumption worldwide.

``There are enough consumers around so we shouldn’t have to fight over it,″ said one of the 600 delegates, Marvin E. Winston, whose Ridgefield Park, N.J., food-testing laboratory helps pasta-makers decipher the formulas of rival companies.

``Together we want to try to ... make pasta as popular as pizza is around the world,″ said Giuseppe Menconi, chairman of the Union of Italian Pasta Producers.

Since the 1970s, relations in the pasta business have often been hotter than spicy penne ``arrabbiate.″

U.S. pasta-makers have been angered over European Union subsidies, which sometimes made Italian pasta cheaper than American brands on U.S. grocery shelves.

A few months ago, the U.S. International Trade Commission decided there was merit to American pasta-makers’ complaints that they were being hurt by Italian and Turkish imports. No settlement has been reached yet.

``We’d like to get this settled once and for all,″ said delegate C. Mickey Skinner, president of the Hershey Pasta Group.

Sometimes it was the Italians who paid the price for trade disputes, like in 1985, when the Reagan administration raised the duty on Italian pasta in retaliation for what it called European discrimination against U.S. citrus fruit.

While the trade industry types at the convention worked hard to downplay hard-feelings, resentment was still near the surface.

Italy’s Menconi, for example, was quick to recall how national pride was pricked earlier this year by a claim from some U.S. experts that pasta could be bad for some people, especially the overweight.

Focusing on the common goal of increasing pasta consumption, savvy spaghetti sellers aren’t overlooking any market.

With Italians eating an average of 60 pounds of the stuff a year, many may consider Italy’s pasta market saturated. Not Ding Xiao Lin, a food-technology professor from China, who thinks the land that legend says gave Marco Polo spaghetti could now convince Italians to make space on their plates for Chinese-style noodles.

``You say pasta, we say noodle,″ he said.

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