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Monday, 22 August 2011

Grate expectations for cheese GI

The IPKat has often wondered what the European Commission's President, José Manuel Barroso, actually does during the long sunny days of August.  Now he knows: the man has been preventing the Old Continent from being riven by a cheese war. Indeed, what El Presidente has been doing is putting his hand to Commission Regulation 794/2011 approving amendments to the specification for a name entered in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications (Parmigiano Reggiano (PDO)) - which he did on 8 August of this very year.  What is this Regulation all about, you may wonder. Let the IPKat explain:
"Whereas:
(1) Pursuant to Article 6(2) of Regulation ... 510/2006 [on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs], Italy’s application for approval of amendments to the specification for the name ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ [Wikipedia explains that 'Parmesan' is the French and English name for this cheese -- a rare example of the French and English agreeing on something, notes Merpel] was published in the Official Journal of the European Union ...

(2) Belgium, Denmark and the Association des Importateurs de fromage registered in Basel, Switzerland, objected to the registration pursuant to Article 7(1) of Regulation ... 510/2006. The objections by Belgium and Denmark were deemed admissible under points (a) and (c) of the first subparagraph of Article 7(3) of that Regu­lation [this means they were submitted in time]. The objection by the Association des Importateurs de fromage was deemed inadmissible on the grounds of its having been submitted after the deadline [No doubt the message they received from the Commission was "hard cheese!"]. 
(3) ...
(4) Denmark’s objection concerned the lack of justification for the obligation henceforth for cheese bearing the name ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ to be portioned, grated and packaged within the defined geographical area. Following clarifications provided by Italy in the said consultations, Denmark withdrew its objection. [The Kats wonder what those clarifications might have been, in light of the next two Whereases]
(5) Belgium’s objection also concerned the lack of justifi­cation of such an obligation to portion, grate and package cheese bearing the name ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ within the defined geographical area. 
(6) Given that no agreement was reached between Belgium and Italy within a time limit of 6 months, [Sounds a bit like the enhanced unitary patent system, doesn't it? Italy doesn't seem very agreeable these days ...] the Commission must adopt a decision in accordance with the procedure laid down in the third subparagraph of Article 7(5) and in Article 15(2) of Regulation ... 510/2006. 
This food is dry, says the
Kat: that confounded
ambient air must have
got to it!
(7) ... Italy states that the said obligation ‘is required because the marks identifying “Parmigiano Reggiano” on the whole cheese are lost or not visible on the grated or portioned product, making it necessary to guarantee the origin of the pre-packaged product [An empirical experiment in the Kats' kitchen can verify that even the best cheese marks do not withstand a vigorous grating]. It is also required because of the need to guarantee that the cheese is packaged quickly after portioning using appropriate methods to prevent the cheese being dehydrated, oxidised or losing its original “Parmigiano Reggiano” organoleptic characteristics. Cutting into the cheese wheel deprives the cheese of the natural protection provided by the crust which, being itself highly dehydrated, insulates the cheese very well against the ambient air.’ [Quite right, says Merpel: you have to watch out for that ambient air, it gets everywhere if you don't watch out -- and is particularly pervasive in Belgium, it seems]
(8) In the Commission’s view, such a reason, designed to ensure the origin of the product in question, ensure optimum control thereof and preserve the product’s physical and organoleptic quality is not vitiated by any manifest error of judgement on the part of the Italian authorities. 
(9) Belgium, furthermore, in its objection cited Article 7(3)(c) of Regulation ... 510/2006. Pursuant to that Article, statements of objection are admissible if they ‘show that the registration of the name proposed would jeopardise […] the existence of products which have been legally on the market for at least 5 years preceding the date of the publication provided for in Article 6(2).’ [The IPKat's imagination runs riot from time to time, but even he finds it hard to conceive of a set of facts in which the registration of a name would "jeopardise ... the existence of products which have been legally on the market for at least 5 years".  Might those products explode, perhaps, or dematerialise?] 
(10) Belgium failed to provide concrete evidence of potential damage arising to Belgian undertakings from the entry into force of the amendments to the specification. 
Even outside the defined geographical area, you have
to be very careful what you do with GIs ...
(11) It is, nonetheless, public knowledge that there are actually companies outside the defined geographical area engaged in portioning and/or packaging cheese bearing the name ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’. Article 13(3) of Regulation ... 510/2006 in this connection permits a transitional period of up to 5 years where a statement of objection has been declared admissible on the grounds that regis­tration of the proposed name would jeopardise the existence of products which have been legally on the market for at least 5 years preceding the date of the publication provided for in Article 6(2) .... Having regard in particular to ongoing contractual obligations and the need to adapt the market progressively ['progressively' means 'slowly'. This is important to appreciate when reading reports that 'progress' is being made] following the amendments to the specifi­cation for the name ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’, operators not established in the geographical area defined in the spec­ification should be allowed a transitional period of 1 year in so far as they were legally engaged in portioning and packaging ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ outside the defined geographical area for at least 5 years prior to 16 April 2009. The duration of that transitional period is the same as that granted by Italy to operators engaged in portioning and packaging operations on its territory but outside the defined geographical area [Quite right, says Merpel. Belgians and Italians are all brothers, so long as they live outside the defined geographical area. The Commission can't make fish of one and fowl of the other]. 
(12) In the light of the above, the amendments should be approved and a transitional period of 1 year introduced. 
(13) The measures provided for in this Regulation are in accordance with the opinion of the Standing Committee on Protected Geographical Indications and Protected Designations of Origin".
You have to watch out for these Belgians, says the IPKat.  Here they are, seeking a right to carry on grating Parmesan under the noses of European's finest, and without the slightest attention to the ambient air.  Why, it's only a decade or so ago that the Belgians tried the same stunt against Spain, maintaining that they could buy quantities of Rioja wine, transport them right across Europe in tankers, driving them right through the ambient air if you please, in order to discharge their contents into Belgian bottles and still call them Rioja.  This attempt was scotched by the European Court of Justice (see note here).  For the avoidance of doubt, adds Merpel, there is no truth in the story that the Belgians argued before the court that putting Rioja into the tankers and driving it across the Pyrenees was designed to improve it ...

Recipes for Parmesan here and here

4 comments:

AndyJ said...

"...a rare example of the French and English agreeing on something, notes Merpel..."

What about the word entrepreneur? We agree on that even if George W Bush doesn't.

Guy said...

Camisa & Son in Old Compton Street import complete wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano. They will cut the wheel in front of you so that you can be sure that you are buying the genuine article. All staff are fluent in Italian.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kats,
as an attentive and observant citizen of the EU I would most humbly like to note that the president of the EU is Herman Van Rompuy, while José Manuel Barroso is President of the European Commission.
With kind regards,
Meow

The IPKat said...

@Anonymous: whoops, thanks for your correction. I've amended the text accordingly.

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