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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 18:29 GMT
Unholey row over Swiss cheese
Emmentaler cheese
Only the truly holey are authentically Swiss (Picture: Swiss Cheese)
Swiss cheesemakers are fuming at an American attack on their holiest institution - the Emmentaler cheese.

On Thursday new guidelines come into force in the US which literally tighten up on the holes in Swiss cheese.


The Americans must want more cheese and less air in their sandwich

Urs Markstein
Swiss Agriculture ministry
Holes must be between a third to three-quarters of an inch across - that, for the ever-precise Swiss, means between 0.9525 and 2.06375 centimetres.

"Blasphemy!" shouts the Swiss daily Blick, which points out that a truly holey Emmentaler has holes between one and four centimetres.

"They must be cherry-sized," says Erwin Kaufmann from the Emmentaler Switzerland Association.

"Only then is the cheese properly matured and top quality".

Holey war

But before the aggrieved Swiss declare war in defence of the beloved product, it must be stressed that the new rules apply only to cheeses produced in America.

High-speed slicing machines function better if the holes are smaller as the slices tend not to crumble so easily.

"The Americans must want more cheese and less air in their sandwich," says Urs Mrkstein from the Swiss Agriculture ministry.

You will not have to get out your tape measure to know if you have a Swiss cheese produced in Switzerland or not - they will be sold under the brand "Emmentaler Cheese from Switzerland".

However, Erwin Kaufmann suggests another method to identify this truly Swiss institution - the distinctive taste:

"Slightly sweet, slightly sour, entirely aromatic and with a rounded unmistakable bouquet," he says.

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