WASHINGTON, March 28, 2012 -Food manufacturers and their trade associations in the United States and Latin America are accelerating a campaign to protect generic food product names that the European Union has been trying to restrict only to the products made in Europe.

The new Consortium for Common Food Names, led by U.S. dairy cooperatives and milk processors, said Monday that it hopes to block EU efforts to restrict the use of common names through international trade agreements. It opposes any attempt to monopolize food names that have become part of the public domain, such as parmesan, feta, provolone, bologna and salami and terms used by winemakers such as “classic,” “vintage,” “fine” and “superior.”

The consortium does not oppose proper geographical indications (GIs) such as “Camembert de Normandie” and “Brie de Meaux” cheeses from France, and “Clare Island Salmon” from Ireland. Similar reasoning would protect names of products from other parts of the world, including Washington apples, Idaho potatoes, Valle de Colchagua wine from Chile or Thai Jasmine rice.

“No one country or entity should own common food names,” said Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for trade policy at the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and the executive director of the new initiative. If EU efforts were successful, he said, food makers in other countries would be “forced to consider relabeling potentially billions of dollars’ worth of food products.” To argue that one group should have exclusive rights to now-common names “is like claiming that only Italians should be permitted to use the term ‘pizza’,” he said.

“Italian, Swiss and Danish immigrants brought to our land their knowledge, traditions and names of food products,” said Miguel Paulón, president of the Argentine Dairy Industry Federation. “Many of the cheese names we use have become protected GIs in Europe, despite the fact that these names were established here for more than a century as generic names, or have become part of trademarks that identify local producers. Moreover, several of those terms were also adopted many years ago by the international food standards Codex program.”

“At least as much feta and parmesan cheese are made outside Europe as within it,” said Errico Auricchio, president of BelGioioso Cheese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, who chairs the consortium. “Production of provolone is more than 15 times greater outside Europe.” Auricchio said his family has been making Italian-style cheeses since 1877.

“For over 60 years in Costa Rica and Central America, our producers and processors have, in good faith, used generic names to describe various types of cheese such as edam, cheddar, gouda, emmenthal and parmesan, among others,” said Jorge Manuel E. Gonzalez, president of the National Chamber of Milk Producers of Costa Rica.

The consortium said a harmful precedent would be set it the EU approval of applications for protected status for Denmark for the use of the name “Danbo” cheese, even though the cheese has had a Codex standard indicating common term status for almost 50 years, and for “Havarti,” despite Codex standard adopted more than 30 years ago.

Leaders said the consortium would inform consumer groups, farmer associations, food manufacturers and government officials of “the damage that will be caused in their own countries if efforts to restrict the use of common food names go unchecked.”


Original story printed in March 28, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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