Europe wants its Parmesan back

The Associated PressMarch 12, 2014 

Looking for American-made Parmesan cheese on the grocery aisle? If the European Union gets its way, you may not be able to find it. Also missing could be domestic asiago, feta and Gorgonzola. The cheeses would still be there, but their names might be different.

J. DAVID AKE/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — 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.”

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.

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.

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