Europe Says That the U.S. is a Cheese Poser and Needs to Come Up With its Own Names for Cheeses

Gruyere, Brie, and Parmesan have all been threatened to have their names changed.

Photo: Liz Barclay

Photo: Liz Barclay

Cheeses such as Brie, Gruyere, Muenster, and Gorgonzola are melted into our vocabulary and culture. But the European Union doesn’t give a sh*t, and they’re asking the U.S. to prohibit local food makers from using names with historical ties to Europe.

After hundreds of years of using these generic terms, the European Union has decided that it’s time re-educate consumers and reverse all of the labeling and branding that has been done to build the names of cheese products. This means that our beloved Gruyere may soon be generically renamed “alpine cheese.”

The argument for the barring of these names is that, for example, Parmesan comes from the Italian province of Parma, and feta is linked to areas in Greece. American producers, on the other hand, argue that the names have been used for hundreds of years and aren’t protected.

Shawna Morris, a trade policy expert for the U.S. Dairy Export and the National Milk Producer’s Federation sees right through the the cheese name ban. She tells the Wisconsin State Journal,

“We have a more commonsense perspective that these names long, long ago became generic not just in our country but in a number of countries around the world. For them to now declare that nobody else should be using it is a blatant barrier to trade here that is designed to hinder competition.”

The EU’s cheesy demands began in the mid-1990s and have spread to other countries such as South Korea, where the sale of U.S. feta, Asiago, Gorgonzola, and fontina have already been banned.

Don’t worry too much about the fate of your beloved cheeses quite yet, because U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, is confident that it is unlikely the U.S. would agree to the EU’s demands, since the issue is “a deal breaker in a lot for agriculture. And without agriculture’s support, it’s difficult to get the approval of any trade agreement.”

The U.S. passed New Zealand to become the top global cheese exporter in 2013. And, to piss European cheesemakers off even more, a Wisconsin cheese-producer won a European-based cheese competition for its Parmesan a few years back (and the category was eliminated from the competition the following year). We think Europe needs to suck up its jealously and let us keep a slice of our pride.

[via NPR]

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