[A2k] AP: Europe wants its Parmesan back, seeks name change
bkilic at citizen.org
Tue Mar 11 14:19:18 PDT 2014
Speaking of cheese, thought this might be of interest :)
American Cheese-Makers: Stop Imitating Europe! Create Your Own Cheese Names.
NPR's Latoya Dennis has a report out this week about European attempts to compel America to "get its own cheese names." Europe takes cheese names very, very seriously. The EU affords "protected designation of origin" (PDO) status to 180 cheeses, from Allgäuer Bergkäse to West Country Farmhouse Cheddar. The PDO label is a type of geographical indication that means that a cheese was made in a specific region according to traditional methods-similar products made in other regions must use another name or risk getting sued.
Now, as part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently under negotiation between the U.S. and the EU, the European Parliament wants America to adopt some of those PDO standards-which means that Kraft Parmesan cheese in a can will need a new name. (In Italy, the salty dairy powder is known as "pamesello.") In the European Parliament's view, "the Agreement should guarantee respect for the European Union's standards and values. This is why the negotiations should . make provision for the strong protection of intellectual property rights, including geographical indications." (The EU has been fighting this uphill battle for a while.)
Dennis interviewed a U.S. cheese-maker who's unhappy with the proposed agreement. "People have spent a great deal of money on labeling, building traditions, building a name on a product," Steve Stettler told Dennis. (By "people," he means "American cheese-makers.") "And then not being able to use that name would be kind of horrific."
I am sympathetic to the argument that the EU restriction would make life difficult for American cheese-makers, and god knows it's hard enough for agricultural producers to make a living already. But the EU is right. American cheese should get their own names.
That's because some unscrupulous American cheese producers exploit public ignorance and lax labeling laws to mislead consumers. Take Brie, for instance. As my colleague Forrest Wickman explained last fall, the cheese sold as Brie in the United States bears little resemblance to the Bries protected by the EU. French Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun are made with raw milk, and unaged raw milk cheese is illegal in the U.S. (which is a dumb law). That means that U.S. "bries" (even the ones deceptively labeled "Brie de Meaux"!) are pasteurized and therefore much firmer and blander than French brie. Most casual cheese lovers don't know minutiae like this, and they buy Brie thinking that they're getting a decent French cheese. For the sake of transparency and honesty, American cheese-makers shouldn't be allowed to capitalize on traditional European cheese's good name.
But forcing American cheese-makers to come up with new names wouldn't just be good for European importers-it would be good for American cheese-makers, too. Back in the '70s, when Brie and other European cheeses began gaining popularity in the States, Americans worshipped at the altar of European (especially French) cuisine. With Julia Child and James Beard as their guides, New World foodies put Old World ingredients and techniques on a pedestal. These days, European ingredients are passé-now, American foodies are interested in American terroir, local produce, and small-batch artisans. If cheese-makers name their cheese something highlights its local provenance and American characteristics-if they can talk about the animals that made the milk and the techniques that turned it into cheese-food enthusiasts will eat it up.
So if they can't call those orange-rimmed squares Muenster anymore, what should American producers call it? To get the ball rolling, I put several European cheese names into Slate's Adele Dazeem Name Generator, which mangles names the way John Travolta mangled Idina Menzel's at the Oscars. The Travoltified version of Brie is "Blake." Provolone is "Preston." Gouda is "Georgia." Parmigiano-Reggiano is "Patrick Ridgardser." These are all fine names for cheeses. Or, lest elementary school bullies start taunting all the little Blakes out there for sharing a name with a bloomy-rind cheese, cheese-makers could go even crazier with their names. Many independent cheese-makers have already staked out unique monikers for their unique wares. At the cheese bar around the corner from Slate's New York office, for instance, they serve aSiltcoos, a goat cheese named after a lake in Oregon, and a Hooligan, an award-winning pungent washed-rind cow's cheese from Connecticut. When you order a Siltcoos or a Hooligan, you know exactly what you're getting-and you know it was made in the U.S. of A.
From: A2k [mailto:a2k-bounces at lists.keionline.org] On Behalf Of Thiru Balasubramaniam
Sent: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 5:12 PM
To: a2k at lists.keionline.org
Subject: [A2k] AP: Europe wants its Parmesan back, seeks name change
Europe wants its Parmesan back, seeks name change
MARY CLARE JALONICK
Published: 21 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AP) - Would Parmesan by any other name be as tasty atop your pasta? A ripening trade battle might put that to the test.
As part of trade talks, the European Union wants to ban the use of European names like Parmesan, feta and Gorgonzola on cheese made in the United States.
The argument is that the American-made cheeses are shadows of the original European varieties and cut into sales and identity of the European cheeses.
The Europeans say Parmesan should only come from Parma, Italy, not those familiar green cylinders that American companies sell. Feta should only be from Greece, even though feta isn't a place. The EU argues it "is so closely connected to Greece as to be identified as an inherently Greek product."
So, a little "hard-grated cheese" for your pasta? It doesn't have quite the same ring as Parmesan.
U.S. dairy producers, cheesemakers and food companies are all fighting the idea, which they say would hurt the $4 billion domestic cheese industry and endlessly confuse consumers.
"It's really stunning that the Europeans are trying to claw back products made popular in other countries," says Jim Mulhern, president of the National Milk Producers Federation, which represents U.S. dairy farmers.
The European Union would not say exactly what it is proposing or even whether it will be discussed this week as a new round of talks on an EU-United States free trade agreement opens in Brussels.
European Commission spokesman Roger Waite would only say that the question "is an important issue for the EU."
That's clear from recent agreements with Canada and Central America, where certain cheese names were restricted unless the cheese came from Europe.
Under the Canadian agreement, for example, new feta products manufactured in Canada can only be marketed as feta-like or feta-style, and they can't use Greek letters or other symbols that evoke Greece.
Though they have not laid out a public proposal, the EU is expected to make similar attempts to restrict marketing of U.S.-made cheeses, possibly including Parmesan, Asiago, Gorgonzola, feta, fontina, grana, Muenster, Neufchatel and Romano.
And it may not be just cheese. Other products could include bologna, Black Forest ham, Greek yogurt, Valencia oranges and prosciutto, among other foods.
The trade negotiations are important for the EU as Europe has tried to protect its share of agricultural exports and pull itself out of recession.
The ability to exclusively sell some of the continent's most famous and traditional products would prevent others from cutting into those markets.
Concerned about the possible impact of changing the label on those popular foods, a bipartisan group of 55 senators wrote U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week asking them not to agree to any such proposals by the EU.
Led by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., the members wrote that in the states they represent, "many
small- or medium-sized, family owned businesses could have their businesses unfairly restricted" and that export businesses could be gravely hurt.
Schumer said artisanal cheese production is a growing industry across New York.
"Muenster is Muenster, no matter how you slice it," he said.
Large food companies that mass-produce the cheeses are also fighting the idea. Kraft, closely identified with its grated Parmesan cheese, says the cheese names have long been considered generic in the United States.
"Such restrictions could not only be costly to food makers, but also potentially confusing for consumers if the labels of their favorite products using these generic names were required to change," says Kraft spokesman Basil Maglaris.
Some producers say they are incensed because it was Europeans who originally brought the cheeses here, and the American companies have made them more popular and profitable in a huge market. Errico Auricchio, president of the Green Bay, Wis., company BelGioioso Cheese Inc., produced cheese with his family in Italy until he brought his trade to the United States in 1979.
"We have invested years and years making these cheeses," Auricchio says.
"You cannot stop the spreading of culture, especially in the global economy."
He says that companies who make certain cheeses would have to come together and figure out new names for them, which would be almost impossible to do.
His suggestion for Parmesan? "I Can't Believe It's Not Parmesan," he jokes.
Jaime Castaneda works for the U.S. Dairy Export Council and is the director of a group formed to fight the EU changes, the Consortium for Common Food Names. He says the idea that only great cheese can come from Europe "is just not the case anymore."
He points out that artisanal and locally produced foods are more popular than ever here and says some consumers may actually prefer the American brands. European producers can still lay claim to more place-specific names, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, he says.
"This is about rural America and jobs," he said.
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