Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cheese Fight

When you buy Parmesan cheese, do you think it is from Parma in Italy? Is feta, which comes from the Greek word for "slice," always Greek? The list goes on to include Cheddar (England), Muenster (Germany), and Roquefort (France).

That question has popped up in the negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The EU wants to protect its cheesy names. That, of course, will meet resistance from U.S. producers who want consumers to understand what it is they are buying. The cheese mongers will argue that Parmesan and feta have overcome their parochial historical geographic connections and now generically refer to the type of cheese.

Taking a quick look at the history of these issues including tequila, champagne, and Hawaiian Punch (OK, that's a joke), it seems the domestic side is likely to lose this important battle. I predict that in five years, American-made feta will be labeled as feta-style cheese as surely as California champagne is now sparkling white wine. Here is a release from U.S. Senators Toomey and Schumer asking the USDA and USTR to support the cheese makers. And, here is an article on the Canadian experience.

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