The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday that Germany broke EU rules by allowing German cheese to be labeled “Parmesan”. Germany has been condemned for selling “fake” parmesan which is a violation of EU food origin rules. In the future, only cheese made in Italy can be labeled “Parmesan”. This puts to rest Germany’s argument that Parmesan is a generic term for a specific type of cheese.
As part of the ECJ ruling Germany will not be punished for violating existing regulations protecting the authenticity of quality foods. The EJC said that protecting EU-protected foods is the responsibility of the country of origin.
Italians were happy with the first part of the ruling but dissatisfied with the second part. According to the news agency ANSA, the Coldiretti farmers’ association said ”halting products like Parmesan is positive but we’re worried that it won’t be compulsory for countries where the product is sold to uphold EU regulations”. Coldiretti went on to say that Europe’s Parmigiano clone-makers already had a slew of products waiting to take Parmesan’s place. ”There’s grated stuff billed as ‘Pamesello Italiano’, tubes of something called ‘Rapisan’, and sachets of ‘Parma’, we need something more to protect our Parmigiano, the most imitated product in the world”.
The article went on to quote the head of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium, Giuseppe Alai: ”Today’s sentence clears the field of ambiguity: the term Parmesan is not at all generic and constitutes a violation of the certified name Parmigiano Reggiano. Parmigiano Reggiano has the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. After this ruling, only the king will be able to wear the king’s clothes”.
Fake Parmigiano Reggiano is still sold in one form or another in South America, Japan, Brazil, Argentina and Britain, while in France ‘parmesan’ is used only for the Italian cheese.