EU Considers GI for Generic Term “Havarti”

June 6th, 2019

havartiCCFN is watching carefully as the European Union (EU) considers approving a controversial Danish application for a geographical indication (GI) for “havarti” cheese. In late May the EU’s Product Quality Committee failed to reach a qualified majority in favor of approving the GI. However, the EU can now choose to act on its own regarding the registration. Havarti is produced in several EU nations, including Germany, Spain and Poland. Those countries all objected to the application when it was filed, as did the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The name “havarti” does not refer to any geographic region in Denmark, and most havarti cheese is produced outside of Denmark – including by Danish company Arla Foods in Wisconsin. The registration would block any producer outside of Denmark from selling cheese by that name within the EU and would add “havarti” to the list of popular food names such as parmesan, feta and chorizo that the EU is attempting to monopolize in global trade. CCFN and other organizations in the EU, Latin America and Oceania suggested that an acceptable, legitimate GI would include the geographic component of the name, such as “Danish Havarti”; this mirrors existing GIs such as “Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar”, a specialty type of cheddar cheese.

“Havarti has been produced in the United States for many years by talented cheesemakers. The name ‘havarti’ is clearly a generic term,” said Dominique Delugeau, Senior Vice President of Specialty Cheese and International Trade at Saputo Cheese USA Inc. (see UnCommon Hero feature in this issue). He noted that, “Within Europe there have been many variations of havarti made. In fact, the true original smear rind Danish havarti for the most part has been replaced by a style of havarti for large-scale production. Why should this deserve a GI?”

Havarti is also one of 12 cheeses registered in the Codex Alimentarius international standards. The EU and Denmark actively participated in and approved of “havarti” in those standards, a process that clearly defines the method of production and generic name for those cheeses.