Cheesemakers choked by Brussels food ruling

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The Independent Online


New food rules agreed by the European Commission yesterday will mean that Scotch beef must come from Scotland, Newcastle Brown Ale from Tyneside and only the original producers of Stilton will be allowed to market cheese by that name.

The agreement gives protected status to over 300 traditional items of food and drink, but it has thrown the Danish dairy industry into chaos by ruling that Greeks and Greeks alone, can make feta cheese.

As a concession to the Danes, who mass-produce the crumbly white cheese, they will still be allowed to export their imitation cows' milk feta to markets outside the European Union. Within the EU, only cheese made in Greece from the milk of local ewes or goats will be allowed to call itself feta.

Under the scheme, Parma ham, which also has numerous imitators, will not only have to come from animals raised and slaughtered in Parma but must also be sliced and packed in Northern Italy. Parmesan cheese too will have to be grated and packed in the region, unless the slicing or grating is done in the shop where customers can see for themselves that it is the genuine product.

The British government submitted 33 foods linked to specific geographical regions for registration and 26 of them have been included. The commission said it was still vetting applications for a further seven items including Cornish yarg cheese, Whitstable oysters and Dorset knob biscuits.

However, Britain's best known cheese, Cheddar, has been deemed so famous that it has lost any unique link with its original home in Somerset. The same goes for French Brie and Camembert, Holland's Edam and Gouda and Swiss Emmental which the commission said anyone can now manufacture.

Two countries, Sweden and Ireland, could not think of a single item of food or drink they wanted to claim as their own.