Is Gruyère still Gruyère if it does not come from Gruyères?
On Tuesday, Jaime Castaneda, executive director of the Consortium for Common Food Names and executive vice president of strategy for the National Federation of Dairy Producers, said he was “ecstatic” about the court’s decision.
“For us, this decision is not only about Gruyere,” he said. “It joins the bigger fight we have with Europe in which they are trying to confiscate all these names,” he said, adding that the European Union adopts rules that benefit its own producers at the expense of the producers elsewhere.
In Europe, countries are resolutely protective of their culinary heritage. The European Union says it aims to protect the names of specific products in order to promote the unique characteristics linked to their geographical origin. Among cheeses, Roquefort must come from Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, France; Parmesan must come from the Italian regions around the cities of Parma and Reggio; and the feta must come from certain regions of Greece.
But the same rules don’t apply in the United States, where cheeses labeled feta, munster, or parmesan can be produced anywhere. (Roquefort, however, must be produced in France.) And the European Union cannot prevent European countries other than Switzerland and France from selling cheese called Gruyere in the United States. Indeed, from 2010 to 2020, the United States imported more cheese called Gruyere from the Netherlands and Germany than from Switzerland and France, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture. For at least 30 years, American cheese makers have applied the “Gruyère” label to cheeses from countries such as Denmark, Egypt and Tunisia.
A spokesman for the Swiss agriculture ministry, Jonathan Fisch, said in a statement that the Swiss government was disappointed with the court ruling. “The use of the term ‘Gruyère’ for a cheese produced in the United States threatens the reputation of the original product and its place on the foreign market and can only harm the entire industry,” he said. he declares.
Margo A. Bagley, a professor at Emory University School of Law who specializes in patent law and intellectual property, said she agreed with the court’s decision.
“If we want to have a dynamic and competitive market, other producers must be able to sell products under the common name that consumers recognize,” she said.