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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2007, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Italy investigates pasta makers
Pasta on sale at a baker in Milan
The era of cheap pasta could be over as durum wheat prices rise
Italian authorities have opened an investigation into pasta manufacturers over alleged price fixing.

Italy's regulator said it would examine the practices of Italian pasta manufacturers to see whether they were uncompetitive.

The probe follows a warning from the federation in July that pasta prices would surge by 20% by the autumn.

High wheat prices were blamed for the sharp rise, but consumer groups accused pasta makers of behaving like a cartel.

Italian authorities will investigate whether members of the Industrial Union of Pasta Makers, which represents about 85% of the market, colluded to fix the price of spaghetti, fettuccine and other favourite pasta dishes.

It follows last month's plea from consumer groups to refrain from buying or eating pasta for one day in protest against the recent price increases.

Manufacturers have argued that they have to pass on the rising cost of durum wheat, from which Italian pasta is made.

The price of wheat has risen, in part because producers of biofuels buy it, hence demand is outstripping supply.

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