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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Europe plans food name fight
Champagne being poured
No more Swiss champagne if the EC gets its way
Champagne, Parma ham, Roquefort cheese and Bordeaux wine ought to be called something else unless they are made in the European towns from which they draw their names, according to the European Commission.

Brussels is planning to take a list of 35 European food and drink brand names to the Cancun meeting of the World Trade Organisation in September.

"We've been usurped of the names," a Commission spokesman said, "and we want them back."

He cited the fact that because a firm in Canada has trademarked the Parma ham name, producers from the Parma region in Italy had to call their product "super ham" to get it onto shops' shelves.

FOOD AND DRINK FIGHT
Wines and spirits:
Bordeaux
Bourgogne
Chablis
Champagne
Chianti
Cognac
Grappa (di Barolo, del Piemonte, di Lombardia, del Trentino, del Friuli, del Veneto, dell'Alto Adige)
Graves
Malaga
Marsala
Madeira
Medoc
Moselle
Porto
Rhin
Rioja
Sauternes
Sherry
Meats:
Jambon de Bayonne
Prosciutto di Parma
Prosciutto di San Daniele
Cheese:
Asiago
Danablu
Fontina
Gorgonzola
Grana Padano
Manchego
Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna
Neufchatel
Parmiggiano Reggiano
Pecorino Romano
Reblochon
Roquefort
Stilton
The Commission argues it is not alone in wanting tougher rules on the use of food names with specific geographic origins. India is keen to ensure only the home-grown product can be called darjeeling tea, for instance.

Sticky issues

But the initiative may yet fail to make the agenda for Cancun.

For one thing, there is a last-minute rush by European countries to wedge new products onto the list before a mid-August deadline, with Greece pushing feta cheese and France wanting seven extra products on top of the 12 it already has.

If all 15 current member states - the 10 new members who have signed up will not be fully on board till next year at the earliest - do not agree by then, it will be too late.

Moreover, the push has already attracted controversy, with UK supermarket chain Asda being banned from using the Parma label for ham sourced from the northern Italian region - but sliced in the UK.

And the Swiss village of Champagne, which has turned out its own - non-bubbly - red and white wine for 800 years, has been up in arms about being prevented from using its own name.

But the real fight will come from big trading partners such as the US, Canada and Australia, who argue that immigrants from the original regions have produced food and drink in their countries for generations.

"It appears that the European Union is asking the US government, US producers and US consumers to subsidise EU producers... so that EU producers can charge monopoly prices for their products," Jon Dudas, Deputy Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, said in a statement earlier this week.


SEE ALSO:
A case of sour grapes
20 Jul 02  |  From Our Own Correspondent


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