EU Food Name System Could Cost U.S. Dairy Industry Billions
Geographic indications (GIs) identify specific geographic areas and are allowed for certain specialty food products. Only products that originate in the designated area may be labeled with the GIs. Examples in the U.S. are: Washington State Apples and Idaho Potatoes. The European Union (EU) has suggested extending GI protections to cheeses, such as parmesan, gorgonzola, asiago and feta. GIs are part of the Transatlantic Trade and investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.
The Consortium for Common Food Names (CFN) commissioned a study to evaluate the impact on the U.S. dairy sector if GI protections are allowed for the dairy products sought by the EU. The study found that extending the recommended GI protections could have the following impact:
Reduce U.S. cheese consumption by 21%, or 2.3 billion pounds
Reduce the size of U.S. dairy herds by 9% overall
Cost U.S. dairy framers a cumulative $59 billion in revenues
Force consumers to pay more for cheese varieties to pay more for cheese varieties with familiar names
Result in the loss of up to 175,000 rural jobs
The CFN recommends that the “use of common names by the U.S. dairy industry – and indeed all other sectors relying on typical food terms – should be aggressively preserved, both for domestic and international use.” Of course, although this will require watching, it is difficult to believe that FDA will amend standards of identity for cheeses, such as “parmesan” to ultimately satisfy the EU.