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NMPF Concerned by Negative Market Impacts of Canadian Concessions to EU on GIs

November 7, 2013

News reports about the just-completed European Union (EU)-Canada Free Trade Agreement indicated that Canada has agreed to protect a list of 145 Geographical Indications (GIs) of importance to the EU. This development is particularly concerning with respect to the treatment of five cheese names that have long been generic in the Canadian market: asiago, feta, fontina, gorgonzola, and muenster.

This is deeply troubling given the fact that these terms have been used generically in the Canadian market for many years, so any new restrictions on these terms’ usage would appear to impose a very disturbing new barrier to competition and trade. The details have yet to be confirmed, but indications at this stage suggest that Canada has agreed to the following:

  • Those already selling these five cheeses in Canada will be able to continue to do so, but they will need to clearly display the country of origin on the label. They will also be prohibited from including on the label the relevant flag corresponding to the EU country that owns the GI or other symbols that may evoke that country.
  • All other non-established producers would need to call the product “feta-like” or “asiago-style,” and also comply with the previously mentioned new labeling requirements.
  • “Parmiggiano Reggiano” will become a protected term, but “parmesan” can still be used as a generic name, according to one press report.

Visit the Consortium for Common Food Names for additional information on GIs.