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ALERT Newsletter






2nd Quarter 2018

Chairman’s Message


A Major Moment for the U.S. in the Face of GI Abuses

While CCFN is an international organization and works with governments around the world, the role of the United States in defending generic names is often of particular importance – in terms of influence, precedence and consequence for food and beverage producers. And the United States is now facing a critical decision on how to push back on the European Union’s geographical indications (GIs) agenda in a key U.S. trade market: Mexico.

As we go to press, the United States is in negotiations with Mexico and Canada on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) modernization, and a major goal in those negotiations is to maintain the excellent trade in food products that has been in place between the U.S. and Mexico for years. But Mexico threw a new wrench into these deliberations last month when it caved into the EU in a bilateral trade deal in agreeing to give away several popular, common food names. Shockingly, it appears that Mexico is moving to restrict the future use of common cheese names such as “parmesan,” “munster” and “asiago”; some wine grape varietal names could also be at risk.

CCFN, which has been very active for the past two years working with the Mexican food industry, immediately joined U.S. farm and food interests in asking the U.S. Trade Representative to engage with Mexico during NAFTA modernization talks to address this serious situation. At the same time, 27 U.S. senators signed onto a letter to the trade representative echoing this appeal. (See the article below.)

The battle for common food names has come up to the U.S. doorstep – as well as within the U.S. itself (see the positive news on “romano” in this issue). The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office recently voiced its concerns regarding the EU’s “aggressive promotion of its exclusionary GI policies”. This will be a critical time to put concrete actions against those words, and hold trading partners accountable when it comes to respecting generic names.

Errico Auricchio
CCFN Chairman


romanoVictories for “Romano” in U.S. and “Gorgonzola” in Canada

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) made clear in April that the terms “pecorino” and “romano” (separately) remain generic in the United States. The USPTO granted to the Italian Pecorino Romano Consortium registration of the trademark “Pecorino Romano” (both terms used together with protection not extending to the terms when used separately). CCFN pushed hard to ensure that the separate, generic names would not be at risk, filing a letter of with USPTO that included additional evidence supporting the fact that the terms “romano” and “pecorino” are generic when used separately. Read More


Mexican chorizo

Mexico Fails its Consumers, Trading Partners by Giving Away Common Names in EU Deal

Mexico appears poised to enact new restrictions on the use of common cheese names such as “parmesan,” “munster” and “feta” for products sold in Mexico, a development that runs counter to existing trade agreements with the United States, according to preliminary reports on the EU-Mexico free trade agreement. Full details of the agreement have not yet been released, but early information indicates Mexico will force cheese marketers from Mexico, the United States and other trading partners to phase out the use of some generic names, yielding to the EU’s desire to curtail competition in those cheese markets. Read More


cheese-world-championshipsNon EU-Nations Take the Gold on Parmesan, Feta, Asiago and Other Cheeses

Extraordinary common-name cheeses battled for gold at the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin, in March. Initiated in 1957, this is reportedly the largest technical cheese, butter, and yogurt competition in the world. A team of 56 internationally renowned judges rated more than 3,400 cheeses from 26 nations at the 2018 competition, and the results once again demonstrated the high quality and strong tradition of cheesemakers within and outside the EU that make parmesan, feta and other common name cheeses.  Read More




  • shopperWall Street Journal Highlights Consumer Confusion Caused by EU Rules – CCFN provided information and member company contacts to a Wall Street Journal reporter for an article (subscription required) that reflected the ridiculous nature of the EU GI demands and the confusion it causes with customers. The headline says it all: “When U.S. Cheese Goes Overseas, It Needs a Fake ID – ‘Parmesan’ becomes ‘Sarmesan’ to comply with European Union rules in some countries, while customers wonder, ‘What sort of cheese is it?’”. The article points out that, “The [GI] rules are a problem not just for producers trading with Europe, but also for those within the EU. With use of the term feta now restricted to the cheese from Greece, producers in other countries who have been making a similar cheese for decades have had to think up new names. ‘It’s the F-word we can’t say,’ said Theis Brøgger, a representative of Danish co-operative Arla Foods, one of the world’s largest dairy processors.” The issue is escalating, the Journal says, because “The situation gets more complicated with each new trade agreement the EU signs.”


  • uruguayUruguay Eloquently Exposes EU Hypocrisy on Danbo – In a statement to the World Trade Organization Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade in March, Uruguay protested the European Union’s decision last fall to register the term “danbo” as a geographical indication despite its global production and existence of an international standard for the product. “This restriction on the free use of a generic term like Danbo will not only affect trade in this product, but will also set a dangerous precedent and create uncertainty in other, similar cases,” the statement said. Further, Uruguay noted that its national interest in danbo stems from the efforts of the Danish government itself, which in the 1960s began sponsoring and promoting various types of training in dairy production. “Argentina and Uruguay are now the largest producers of Danbo cheese outside the European Union… We are sorry to see this about-face in our friend’s position, which goes against the spirit of this Organization. We therefore once again urge the European Union to reconsider this measure.” CCFN also expressed outrage and concern last October about the EU’s decision on danbo (see CCFN press release) and had previously filed comments opposing the GI’s application in the EU.


  • U.S. Administration Calls Out the EU on Exclusionary GI Policies – This spring the U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR) released two annual reports that each detail the threat from the EU’s abuse of GI policy. CCFN provided background information and comments to USTR as it prepared the documents, which are important policy statements that help direct trade priorities of the U.S. government. The annual “Special 301” intellectual property report repeated the USTR’s serious concerns regarding the EU’s “aggressive promotion of its exclusionary geographical indications policies” and called on U.S. trading partners to respect generic food and beverage names. (See CCFN press release). The 2017 National Trade Estimate Report [link], which outlines trade barriers, expressed USTR’s concern on GI policy as an overarching issue in its section on the European Union.


UnCommon Hero

(A profile of one of the heroes who protect and promote common food names)

Barry Carpenter, President and CEO, North American Meat Institute

Fewer issues are more important to the North American meat industry than trade, and that makes trade a passion for Barry Carpenter, President and CEO of the North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute). Read more