The Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium reacts to pending tariffs

Melanie Wong | Oct 7, 201902:21 PM     1

PARMA, ITALY, October 7, 2019 — Following the World Trade Organization’s decision to grant permission to the Trump administration to impose an annual tax of $7.5 billion on European exports such as wine, olive oil and cheese starting October 18, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium believes that the new tariff will only negatively affect the American consumer while hurting Italian producers.

“A document from the National Milk Producers Federation, the association of milk producers that produces more than two-thirds of American milk, makes explicit the will of the Trump administration to wage war on European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) products. We will make an effort to protect Italian producers from the import of generic parmesan made outside of our protected designation of origin,” stated Nicola Bertinelli, President of the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium.
“Finally, it is clear why there is an additional duty of 25% for products with Italian geographic indications, including Parmigiano Reggiano,” he said. “The duties are nothing but a spite on behalf of President Trump because of the European Union protection of the registered PDO against generic Parmesan, Asiago, Gorgonzola and Fontina made in the United States. We must defend our products as an expression of the territory and culture of our country.”

As consumers seek ways to determine the authenticity of their food, the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium combats misusage of the term “parmesan” to describe cheeses that are not made using artisan and natural methods that are established in the product regulation and in the strict specification for Parmigiano Reggiano PDO. Within the European Union, the name “Parmesan” is legally defined as PDO Parmigiano Reggiano, though it is often used outside Europe for similar non-PDO cheeses.

As with the regions where Idaho potatoes or Kauai coffee from Hawaii are grown, there is a specific microbiological characteristic that cannot be found anywhere else in the world except in Parmigiano Reggiano’s Protected Designation of Origin. Only raw milk produced in the area of origin is used to produce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It is a special milk, characterized by a unique and intense bacterial activity of the local microbial flora, influenced by environmental factors, especially by the forage, grass and hay from the area that account for the main feed of the cows dedicated to this specific production.

The Consortium promotes traceability for its distinctive Parmigiano Reggiano, widely recognized as the “King of Cheese,” in order to guarantee to consumers they are getting the food they asked for. Parmigiano Reggiano was recently confirmed as the top-selling PDO product, with €1.4 billion turnover at production and €2.4 billion in sales annually — with 3.6 million wheels produced in 2018.

To bear the designation “Parmigiano Reggiano PDO,” the cheese has to be made respecting strict rules. First of all, it has to be produced in the area of origin (which includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua to the right of the Po river, and Bologna to the left of the Reno River — a surface of approximately 10,000 square kilometers). Parmigiano Reggiano is strongly bound to its area of origin such that no other place in the world can produce the same product — even if the same production techniques were used.

Therefore, using “parmesan” to broadly describe non-Italian hard and grated cheeses is not compliant with the production specifications of Parmigiano Reggiano, and is in direct violation of the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). In 2008, the European Court of Justice made a decisive ruling that only cheeses bearing the PDO “Parmigiano Reggiano” can be sold under the denomination “Parmesan.”

“The Trump administration tariff is also an affront to American consumers, who should receive a strong guarantee of traceability with Parmigiano Reggiano. They now have to pay more for the privilege of authenticity,” continued Bertinelli.

A recent survey carried out by the Consortium revealed that two-thirds of U.S. consumers think of products with an Italian origin in association with the word “parmesan.”

More about Parmigiano Reggiano: www.parmigianoreggiano.com"

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