The European Union and U.S Senate are currently battling over what Americans can call their cheeses. The E.U wants to defend names associated with geographic locations, such as ricotta, feta, Gouda, brie, Parmesan, and nearly every other cheese except American cheese. This sanction would force U.S manufactures to rename their products—from Feta to feta-style—making it more difficult for small producers to market their cheeses. Though E.U succeeded in placing similar sanctions on alcoholic beverages—only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France is called Champagne, U.S producers also worry that name changes will confuse consumers. These restrictions would give European manufacturers an edge over competitors.
Canada has agreed to these restrictions and will be renaming their cheeses. The European Union’s crackdown may also extend to other “regionally-associated” foods, such as Black Forest ham, Greek yogurt, Valencia oranges, and prosciutto. The E.U’s trade agreement aims to protect the integrity of these food items and prevent competitors from making inferior imitations. Similar quality certifications exist in the coffee and tea industries. India’s Tea Board authenticates exports and Fair Trade labels designate coffee manufacturers meet workplace standards.
This seemingly trivial debate is about more than what to call a piece of cheese; it relates to issues of culinary authenticity. It makes sense that the European Union wants to ensure quality standards in cheese buying “curds and aged whey” does not have the same appeal. The name changing agreement is still under debate but American manufacturers are urging the Senate to reject the E.U’s measures. In the end, this debate is a bit cheesy, it can easily be cured without making too much of a stink.