In a rare act of bipartisan unity, dozens of U.S. senators have
wheeled into action against what they call an "absurd" European
initiative that would force name changes to common cheese varieties
produced in the United States.
The European Union says that names such as asiago, feta, parmesan
and muenster are "geographical indicators" that should only be
displayed on products made in specific areas of Europe, and not by
their U.S.-made counterparts.
The request grated on the U.S. lawmakers.
"Can you imagine going into a grocery store and cheddar and
provolone are called something else?" said Senator Pat Toomey, a
Toomey and Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, rallied more than
half of the 100-member Senate to urge U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom
Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to fight the EU
Canada agreed recently to impose restrictions on the use of "feta"
and other common cheese names, but the senators said for the United
States, no whey.
"Many small- or medium-sized family-owned farms and firms could have
their business unfairly restricted by the EU's push to use
geographical indications as a barrier to dairy trade and
competition," they said.
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The senators said their action was supported by Kraft Foods Group,
Denver-based Leprino Foods, the world's largest mozzarella maker,
and groups such as the National Milk Producers Association, U.S.
Dairy Export Council, and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
"Muenster is Muenster, no matter how you slice it," Schumer said on
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; editing by Peter Cooney)
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