U.S. Dairy Industry Pushes Back on EU's Claim to Cheese Names

Senators signal support for U.S. cheesemakers, calling Europe's claim to names like 'asiago' and 'muenster' an overreach

Published on: Mar 12, 2014

A bipartisan group of Senators Tuesday said the EU's efforts to restrict U.S. production and exports of products carrying European geographical names will not be tolerated.

The Senators delivered an opposition letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging them to defend common names, especially as U.S. negotiators go back to the table with the EU this week to work on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

"We urge you to make clear to your EU counterparts that the U.S. will reject any proposal in the [TTIP] negotiations now underway that would restrict in any way the ability of U.S. producers to use common cheese names," the letter states.

Senators signal support for U.S. cheesemakers, calling Europes claim to names like asiago and muenster an overreach
Senators signal support for U.S. cheesemakers, calling Europe's claim to names like 'asiago' and 'muenster' an overreach

Limited competition
The letter commends the work the Administration has done to date in recognizing the efforts by the EU to restrict the use of such common names as "parmesan" and "feta", but warns that the EU is becoming increasingly aggressive in erecting these trade barriers.

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According to international non-profit alliance the Consortium for Common Food Names, when food producers are unable to use common food names in either domestic or international trade, it hampers their ability to compete in established markets.

CCFN adds that it can be confusing for consumers by removing available products from the market and suggesting that there is only one place to get a given product, when in reality many choices exist.

"For consumers both here and abroad, the consequences of limiting familiar food names to just a few regional suppliers would be higher costs, fewer choices and greater confusion," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. "No one country has any right to own common food names for their exclusive use. U.S. businesses should have the opportunity to offer their award-winning products, and let consumers decide what they want to buy."

Related: EU Claims To Cheese Names 'Absurd'; Fight Against Ban Intensifies

For example, some U.S. cheese manufacturers have been making award-winning cheeses with common names like "asiago" and "muenster" for decades, CCFN says. These cheesemakers often label their products as "Made in America," while giving a nod to the historic origins of the cheese.