Page last updated at 00:26 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Italy investigates pasta makers over 'price-fixing'

Pasta is a staple food for many in Italy and beyond

Italy's financial police have raided the offices of the country's five main pasta makers as part of a price-fixing investigation, judicial sources say.

The headquarters of firms such as Barilla, De Cecco and Divella were among those searched. They say they are co-operating with the authorities.

Police began investigating the pasta-makers in 2007, following complaints by consumer groups.

In February, 26 firms were fined for raising prices by as much as 36%.

Italy's competition authorities fined the companies 12.5m euros ($18.2m) and said they were "restricting competition in order to decide together on increasing the prices for the sale of pasta".

They said the cartel had lasted between October 2006 and March 2008. The pasta-makers are appealing against the fines.

In this latest investigation, officials are looking for evidence of price-fixing dating back to 2007.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Union of Pasta Makers - whose offices were also among those searched - denied the existence of a cartel.

"We reiterate that there has never been any speculation, nor has there been any agreement damaging consumers' interest," said the group's chairman, Massimo Mena.

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