The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - July 8

A U.S.-led bid to make an international standard for Parmesan cheese that could be produced anywhere failed after Italy and the European Union insisted it must come from the area around Parma. The issue was shelved at a meeting of the Codex Alimentarius, a UN commission that sets food safety and quality standards, after it became clear there wasn't enough agreement to proceed.

The issue has been polarized between the EU and its supporters and countries that say they also want to make the cheese. EU regulations stipulate that only cheese produced in the region around the Italian city of Parma can be identified as Parmigiano-Reggiano. The 25-country bloc claims that "Parmesan" is the English translation of the name, and therefore should be protected as well.

The EU's opponents, led by the United States, say Parmesan has become a generic name for a hard cheese that can be grated, and so it can be made anywhere. Italy's minister of agriculture, Gianni Alemanno, praised the decision to shelve the proposal, saying: "A new important victory has been won by Italy and the European Union in the defense of geographic indications."