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Potential threat to global common foods may reach new levels

Jan. 28, 2014 | 0 comments


The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) said it is greatly alarmed by the European Union's (EU) decision recently to allow Denmark to move forward with an application for a geographical indication (GI) that would grant it exclusive use of the name 'havarti' in the EU.

The decision is noteworthy because the term not only is used widely around the world, but also because there is an international product standard for havarti. This is particularly significant, given the role that international standards typically play in preventing barriers to trade, according to CCFN.

In the United States alone, havarti is produced by over 40 companies in a dozen states. Significant international production of havarti played a key role in the objective evaluation process that resulted in the finalization of a Codex Alimentarius standard for the cheese in 2007.

Consequently, CCFN believes the European Union's GI application directly undermines the Codex standard for havarti, and calls into question the EU's commitment to the international standard setting process.

"The EU's implied permission to let one single nation own the common name havarti flies in the face of international commerce, and — by disregarding the Codex standard — raises the question of whether any generic food term is safe from being confiscated by the European Commission," said Jaime Castaneda, CCFN executive director. "We will fervently contest this application."

"It is frankly appalling that the EU is continuing down this path of undermining common food names and imposing barriers to market access for international suppliers of food products from the United States, Latin America, Oceania and other origins," he added.

"A better model for GIs is easily achievable — and we've seen it with recent EU rulings just late last year on 'Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar' and 'Holsteiner Tilsiter'," Castaneda said.

Castaneda added that these newly approved EU GIs are protected only as complete names and the approval notice contained clear language stating that the generic names 'cheddar' and 'tilsiter' are not restricted in the EU under these applications.

"It's essential that those around the world who are troubled by the EU's actions raise their concerns with their respective governments regarding the creation of GIs for internationally standardized products as well as any other infringement on the use of generic names and terms. It's the only way to foster international usage of a more workable model for GIs," he added.

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) is an independent, international non-profit alliance whose goal is to work with leaders in agriculture, trade and intellectual property rights to foster the adoption of high standards and model geographical indication guidelines throughout the world. Those interested in joining can find information at www.CommonFoodNames.com.

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