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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Asda slams 'ham-fisted' Parma ruling
Parma ham
Parma ham - or just ham?
UK supermarket Asda has lost a battle to sell authentic Parma ham under the Parma brand, when the meat is sliced and pre-packed in Britain.

European judges have ruled the ham must be packed and sliced in Parma itself to be marketed under its name of origin.

Asda no longer slices and packages Parma ham in the UK, having moved production back to Italy, but used to pack the meat at a plant near Chippenham in Wiltshire.

The supermarket said it wanted to have the freedom to choose where it sliced and packed the meat, in order to keep prices low.

However, Asda can still use the Parma name when the meat is sliced on a delicatessen counter in front of shoppers

Court battle

The long-running dispute began back in November 1997 when the Italian Parma ham trade consortium, Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, took Asda to court in the UK.

We are still allowed to slice Parma ham on our deli counters and sell it as Parma ham - it's barmy!
Asda statement
They said Asda was flouting an Italian law which stated slicing and packaging must be done by the consortium in the Parma region.

Asda had argued that the Italian law could not be applied under UK law.

Last year the European Court's advocate-general issued an 'opinion' which backed Asda's claim.

But in an unusual move, the full court overturned the advocate-general's decision, saying that, under the EU's Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) law, Parma must be sliced and packaged in the region of production.

The slicing and packaging of the ham "constitute important operations which may damage the quality and authenticity, and consequently the reputation, of the PDO if those requirements are not complied with", the judgment said.

'Common sense'

"The court has been duped by the Parma producers' ham-fisted attempt to push up the price of their products," Asda said in a statement.

"Our argument for the court was based on common sense - no one doubts that Scotch beef remains Scottish if sliced in Southampton; Jersey potatoes are still Jerseys when boiled in Blackpool; Cheddar's still Cheddar if grated in Gretna.

Control over the whole process, including slicing and packaging, guarantees quality and authenticity
Stefano Fanti, Parma ham producers' consortium

"We asked the court to apply the same logic to Parma ham sliced outside the Parma region to ensure that we are able to get the best value possible for our customers.

"After all we are still allowed to slice Parma ham on our deli counters and sell it as Parma ham - it's barmy!"

But the ruling was welcomed by the Parma producers consortium.

"This is an important day for the 200 producers of Parma ham," said Stefano Fanti, managing director of the Italian consortium.

"Control over the whole process, including slicing and packaging, guarantees quality and authenticity."

Hard cheese for Parmesan pretenders
25 Jun 02  |  Business
Court supports Asda over parma ham
26 Apr 02  |  UK News

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