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              A woman touches pasta in a hotel conference room in Rome, Friday, May 18, 2012. Pasta sales worldwide have grown steadily over the past three years. Pasta is serious business in Italy, and the recent blind taste test organized by the world

Barilla pasta company facing boycott following chairman’s anti-gay remarks

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

Gay rights activists are up in arms after the head of Barilla Pasta, said he would not use a gay family to advertise the company’s products.

“For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company,” Guido Barilla said on La Zanzara, an Italian radio show, Wednesday according to The Guardian.

“I would not do it but not out of a lack of respect for homosexuals who have the right to do what they want without bothering others … [but] I don’t see things like they do and I think the family that we speak to is a classic family,” he added.

When asked what affect his beliefs would have on gay consumers be Barilla responded, “Well, if they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don’t like it and they don’t like what we say they will … eat another.”

Gay activists in Italy have launched a boycott of the pasta maker, according to reports.

“Accepting the invitation of Barilla’s owner to not eat his pasta, we are launching a boycott campaign against all his products,” Aurelio Mancuso, chairman of Equality Italia, said according to The Guardian.

Thursday Barilla apologized for his comments.

“I’m sorry if my comments on La Zanzara have created misunderstanding or polemic, or if I’ve offended anyone. In the interview I only wanted to underline the central role of the woman in the family,” he said, according to The Independent.

While Barilla has walked back his words, people are still angry.

“It’s depressing that a businessman used to working and travelling around the world should say what Guido Barilla had said. I certainly won’t be buying his products any more,” The Independent quoted Ivan Scalfarotto, a member of Italy’s parliament.

Thursday, the LGBT group Freedom to Work, in America, called on the company to adopt an equal employment opportunity policy that includes LGBT people.

“If Barilla is serious about including LGBT people at the dinner table, they should also give LGBT employees a fair shot to contribute in the workplace,” Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work, said in a statement.

To be sure, Barilla is not without supporters, according to ANSA English.

“Solidarity with Guido Barilla (amid these) attacks on civil liberties,” ANSA quoted Maria Rita Munizzi, president of the Italian Parents Movement. “We appreciate the choice to showcase his products with the natural family”

Barilla is not the first food company to come under fire for comments its head made about the gay community.

Last summer Chick-Fil-A faced a boycott from LGBT activists who were angered by Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy’s comments about gay marriage.

According to The Independent, Barilla represents about half of the Italian pasta market and a quarter of the American market.

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