Loosening restrictions on foods with geographical names

European Commission has regulated the use of food names with geographical indicators like Camembert cheese. (courtesy njrunner.us)

Nathan Hager, wtop.com

ARLINGTON, Va. – Common foods with geographically significant names such as Parmesan cheese, Chorizo sausage and Salami may be in danger of losing their namesake, but a new organization wants to make sure that doesn’t happen.

The Consortium for Common Food Names launched Monday. The collection of consumers, food producers and retailers from around the world want to keep foods with internationally derived names from falling out of the public domain.

For years, the European Commission (EC) has regulated the use of food names with geographical indicators (GIs). But, according to Jaime Castaneda, the consortium’s executive director, the EC is now moving toward regulating the translations of food names with GIs, so that terms like “Parmesan” would be restricted.

The list of endangered names includes cheeses like Brie, Cheddar and Camembert, and meats like Prosciutto, Chorizo and Salami. Renaming the 14 top cheeses alone could cost $4.2 billion a year, says Castaneda.

“This could be a huge deal,” Castaneda says.

Castaneda stresses that his group is not opposed to restrictions for specific regions, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano to designate cheese made in Parma, Italy.

“At least as much Feta and Parmesan cheese are made outside Europe as within it. These generic names are in the public domain,” consortium chairman Errico Auricchio said in a statement. He’s the president of an Italian-style cheese making company based in Green Bay, Wis.

The consortium advocates for the use of compound terms which would allow food producers to pair generic internationally-derived names with their regions of origin.

“it is very simple to basically say ‘Camembert de Normandy,’ ‘Parmigiano-Reggiano,’ ‘Mozzarella di Bufalo de Campana,” says Castaneda.

He says the regional designations could also apply to foods made in the United States, such as Idaho potatoes or Washington State apples.

More Names At Risk

  • Asiago
  • Brie
  • Edam
  • Emmental
  • Feta
  • Fontina
  • Gorgonzola
  • Gouda

  • Grana
  • Gruyere
  • Havarti
  • Kielbasa
  • Neufchatel
  • Pecorino
  • Prosciutto
  • Ricotta

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