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Europe: You can't use the name Parmesan if the cheese isn't made in Parma

By Mary Clare Jalonick

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 12 2014 1:04 p.m. MDT

"Muenster is Muenster, no matter how you slice it," he says.

Trevor Kincaid, a spokesman for the U.S. trade representative, said that conversations on the issue are in the early stages but that the U.S. and EU have "different points of view" on the topic.

The agency wouldn't disclose details of the negotiations, but Kincaid said the U.S. government is "committed to increasing opportunity for U.S. businesses, farmers and workers through trade."

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.

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 great cheese can only 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," Castaneda says.

Dairy farmers and cheese makers say they are angry 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.

"We've been manufacturing, marketing, advertising, and making the cheese interesting to consumers, and now we're supposed to walk away from it?" says Pete Kappelman, who owns a family dairy farm in Manitowoc, Wis. "That's not quite a level playing field."

Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mcjalonick

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