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Europe wants its Parmesan back, seeks name change
Large food companies that mass-produce the cheeses are also fighting the idea. Kraft, closely identified with its grated Parmesan cheese, says the cheese names have long been considered generic in the United States.
"Such restrictions could not only be costly to food makers, but also potentially confusing for consumers if the labels of their favorite products using these generic names were required to change," says Kraft spokesman Basil Maglaris.
Some producers say they are incensed because it was Europeans who originally brought the cheeses here, and the American companies have made them more popular and profitable in a huge market. Errico Auricchio, president of the Green Bay, Wis., company BelGioioso Cheese Inc., produced cheese with his family in Italy until he brought his trade to the United States in 1979.
"We have invested years and years making these cheeses," Auricchio says. "You cannot stop the spreading of culture, especially in the global economy."
He says that companies who make certain cheeses would have to come together and figure out new names for them, which would be almost impossible to do.
His suggestion for Parmesan? "I Can't Believe It's Not Parmesan," he jokes.
Jaime Castaneda works for the U.S. Dairy Export Council and is the director of a group formed to fight the EU changes, the Consortium for Common Food Names. He says the idea that only great cheese can come from Europe "is just not the case anymore."
He points out that artisanal and locally produced foods are more popular than ever here and says some consumers may actually prefer the American brands. European producers can still lay claim to more place-specific names, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, he says.
"This is about rural America and jobs," he said.
Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mcjalonick