On Monday, a number of global food producers and organizations, including IDFA, launched the Consortium for Common Food Names, an international initiative that aims to stop efforts to restrict the use of generic food names, including efforts by the European Commission.
The new consortium opposes any attempt to monopolize generic names that have become part of the public domain, such as parmesan, feta and provolone. It also seeks to foster the adoption of a model that would protect legitimate graphic indications like “Parmigiano Reggiano” while preserving the right of all producers to use common names like “parmesan.”
The consortium does not oppose proper geographical indications (GIs) like “Camembert de Normandie” and “Brie de Meaux” cheeses from France and “Clare Island Salmon” from Ireland. For specialized products made in a specific region, it has made sense for the European Commission to protect the regional name to help preserve the unique nature of that product.
No One Should Own Common Names
However, the group believes no one country or entity should own common food names. Many well-known foods trace their origins to Europe, but thanks to decades of trade and the emigration of individual food artisans, these products are now made and enjoyed throughout the world. Over time, this has greatly increased the popularity of European varietals like parmesan and salami to the commercial benefit of European and non-European producers and consumers alike.
“At least as much feta and parmesan cheese are made outside Europe as within it,” said Errico Auricchio, chairman of the consortium. “Production of provolone is more than 15 times greater outside Europe.” Auricchio, whose family has been making Italian-style cheeses since 1877, is the president of BelGioioso Cheese Inc., Green Bay, Wis.
“This is not just a question of dollars and cents, but of fairness and choice,” said Auricchio. “These generic names are in the public domain. The logical path is to label foods so consumers can choose what they want – whether it’s a food from the valleys of France, Italy or Wisconsin. What matters is that they can choose.”
The European Commission began attempting to expand the system of geographical indications under World Trade Organization negotiations in the Doha round. But as those efforts stalled, the Commission has started inserting naming restrictions within free trade agreements, as seen in current negotiations with several Western Hemisphere and Asian countries.
“IDFA is pleased to join the consortium and is committed to defending the global marketability of commonly named dairy products," said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president.
For more information, contact John Kelly, IDFA manager of international affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.