CODEX ALIMENTARIUS: PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO’S IMPORTANT RESULT OVER PARMESAN

From Auckland the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium’s management announces: “The term “Parmesan” to define generic grated cheeses has been rejected. This is an important result for Italy and the European Union, which have supported the system of DPOs as a form of protection of consumers and producers”

Auckland, 28 April 2004 – An important result for the Consortium for Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese: the proposal to use the term “Parmesan” to define generic grated cheeses, including the ones containing additives, has been rejected. This has been resolved by the meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Committee on milk and dairy products, which is taking place from 26 to 30 April in Auckland, New Zealand, with the participation of the member countries of the international body promoted by FAO and WHO.
The countries participating in the Codex meeting rejected a proposal put forward by the United States, which aimed at developing an international standard for the production of "Parmesan". The Codex milk Committee decided to postpone the issue to June inside the permanent Committee, which could decide to dismiss it definitively or repropose its discussion in two years’ time.

“This result is an important victory in the fight to protect our right on the term "Parmesan" – announced Andrea Bonati, president of the Consortium, who was taking part in the meeting together with the director, Leo Bertozzi. Our stance is that of rejecting the proposal for an international standard on "Parmesan" so that the Codex recognises that our cheese’s name will not be considered a generic term. In these days, we have witnessed a remarkable teamwork, where our position has been backed by the European Commission’s representatives, with a decided support of Italy, Spain, Greece, France, Holland, United Kingdom and also Switzerland."
Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of world’s most famous European cheeses, and the denomination "Parmesan" is protected within the European Union as a designation of origin because European regulations protect both DPO products and their translations.
"The support provided by this united front - Bonati continued – is evidence that the defence of the term "Parmesan" represents, for European countries and the entire DPO system, an inalienable principle and a highly developed food culture that respects quality and territorial identities.”

The original request to define a standard for "Parmesan" had been put forward in 1996 by Germany and, during this meeting, the United States supported the same proposal by lodging a new request, having the purpose of allowing the use of the word "Parmesan" for generic grated cheeses, including the ones with additives, which have nothing to do with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the standards imposed on producers by the strict EU regulations. In addition to the economic damage, what is at stake is the defence of a principle, i.e. the protection of DPO products from imitations that dispossess producers of the mark and mislead consumers. The US proposal was upheld by some Latin American countries and by a series of other countries, including Australia and New Zealand.
"During the meeting – stated Leo Bertozzi, director of the Consortium – for the first time the DPO concept was presented in an international normative organisation and everybody acknowledged the unique specificity of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with its absolutely unquestionable quality. This is already an important result, based on our presence and international relationships cultivated in recent years. The situation was very delicate if you think that in the three previous meetings of 1998, 2000 and 2002 we succeeded in postponing the decision waiting for the European Union to develop internal conditions that would be favourable to our position. In this work of diplomacy, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has played a decisive role, standing by our side in every crucial moment."

“This result, which will be hopefully confirmed in a definitive way during the June meeting of the Committee – concluded president Bonati – will enable us to carry on our battle in all venues together with the Ministry to protect not only Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but also the entire Italian agri-food heritage, in particular before the WTO, where the European Union aims to lay the foundations to fight international agricultural/food piracy and disseminate the concept of Geographical Indication.”

Technical Remark on the Codex Alimentarius
The Codex Alimentarius Committee was established in 1963 by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) and WHO (World Health Organisation) with the purpose of developing food regulations, guidelines and other texts, such as codes of practice within the framework of a FAO/WHO joint programme on food regulations.
The main targets of the programme are the protection of consumers’ health, the promotion of legal practices in food trading and the coordination of all standardisation works regarding food products, undertaken by governmental and non-governmental organisations. http://www.codexalimentarius.net


Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano
Press and Foreign Relations Office
in collaboration with Press Office - Bologna

Contact person:
Igino Morini – Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano
tel. +39 0522 700230; fax +39 0522 700240; mobile 335 6522327
morini@parmigiano-reggiano.it