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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 12:38 GMT
Germany cleared in Parmesan case
Parmesan cheeses displayed in Turin
Parmesan, like Greek Feta and Champagne, has special status
A claim that Germany has failed to protect genuine Italian Parmesan cheese from imitation has been rejected by the top court in the European Union.

The European Commission argued Berlin had not acted against producers who did not meet Italy's stringent rules.

The Court of Justice said Germany had measures in place but rejected Berlin's claim that Parmesan was a generic name.

It said only the authentic product bearing the name "Parmigiano Reggiano" could be sold under the name Parmesan.

'No more doubts'

Authentic Parmesan, often sold in powdered form and sprinkled on pasta dishes, is made by fewer than 450 cheese-makers close to the Po River in northern Italy.

The German government had argued that the word "Parmesan", in Germany, merely referred to hard cheeses which were either grated or intended to be grated.

The official association of Parmesan producers said the court's ruling on the name Parmesan meant there were no longer any doubts about the cheese's identity.

Leo Bertozzi, director of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano, told the BBC News website that the ruling was "completely positive".

"The Court of Justice has stated that Parmesan can be used only to identify Parmigiano-Reggiano. The name is protected and even its translations are protected," he said.

Parmesan was among dozens of foods and drinks awarded the status of "protected designation of origin" (PDO). Others include Champagne and Parma ham as well as Gorgonzola and Feta cheese.

German law

The court said that the German government had legal instruments - like courts - to ensure effective protection.

It rejected the European Commission's complaint that it was up to member states to penalise infringements on their own territory, saying instead it should be the responsibility of the country from which the protected product came.

The official association of Parmesan producers has already brought cases through the German courts.

So the days of German parmesan could be numbered anyway, the BBC's Dominic Hughes in Brussels says.

The row over the definition of Parmesan cheese

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