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Move To Protect Havarti Shows Lunacy Of EU’s GI Scheme
Late last month (as reported on our front page on January 31), Denmark asked the European Commission to grant protected geographical indication (GI) status to Havarti cheese. This serves as a perfect example of just how desperate the European Union has become in its efforts to “claw back” certain cheese names that have been in common use around the world for years.
This is not to say that the EU’s GI scheme is all bad. Indeed, for some cheeses it certainly serves a clear purpose in specifying exactly where a particular cheese, with a specific name, can be produced.
For example, Italy’s famed Pecorino Romano can only be made from fresh full-fat sheep’s milk obtained from sheep bred in the regions of Sardinia, Lazio and the province of Grosseto.
But the concise definition of the geographical area for the production of Havarti is defined in Denmark’s application as follows: “Denmark.” That’s it.
As far as Havarti’s reputation is concerned, Denmark explains that “Havarti” is a “very old Danish word dating back to Viking times.” So what’s next? Will Denmark try to force the Minnesota Vikings to change their name?
Havarti has a pretty impressive history; this “pumped-curd cheese” was first produced in Denmark in 1921, when G. Morgenthaler from Switzerland taught two dairymen at two Danish dairies how to produce this new cheese. Interesting that the methods for making a renowned “Danish” cheese were actually taught to Danish cheese makers by a cheese maker from Switzerland.
Also, both “inside and outside” the EU, “Havarti” has a reputation for being a specialty of “Danish origin.” Oh, and the Danish dairy sector has taken part with “Havarti” in shows and competitions at both the national and international level, including Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association events, “where it has won several prizes.”
By golly, Havarti made in Denmark did capture a couple of prizes in the 2012 World Championship Cheese Contest, although Best in Class in Havarti that year actually went to Steve Stettler of Decatur Dairy in Brodhead, WI. Wisconsin, it turns out, has been making award-winning Havarti for a number of years now.
And Denmark hasn’t objected to Wisconsin, or any other state for that matter, calling this particular cheese “Havarti.” Perhaps part of the reason for this is because one of the cheese companies that makes Havarti in Wisconsin is none other than Arla Foods, which is headquartered in Denmark.
Denmark’s application for GI protection for Havarti points out that instruction in the making of “Havarti” can be documented back to 1921 and has been, and continues to be, a normal part of a dairyman’s training in Denmark, and references to making “Havarti” are therefore to be found in a “large number” of training manuals.
The application continues: “The know-how that has been built up over all these years at Danish dairies has created a unique body of experience. It is therefore important that the production of ‘Havarti’ take place at Danish dairies, where dairymen, dairy technicians, dairy technologists and dairy engineers have over many years received thorough training and instruction in the technologies used specifically for this type of cheese.”
Interesting, then, that when Arla Foods acquired Wisconsin-based White Clover Dairy back in early 2006, it pointed out that White Clover had been producing Havarti and Feta (this was before the EU decided, much to Denmark’s chagrin, that Feta could only be produced in Greece) for Arla Foods under a license agreement since 1998.
What this sounds like is that, at least from 1998 until very recently, it wasn’t necessarily all that important to Denmark’s leading dairy company that Havarti only be made in Denmark. Wisconsin, for example, was another fine place to use Danish know-how to produce award-winning Havarti.
Further, as the Consortium for Common Food Names points out, an international Codex standard for Havarti cheese was actually finalized back in 2007.
Interestingly, the Codex standard for Havarti does address country of origin, as follows: The country of origin (which means the country of manufacture, not the country in which the name originated) shall be declared.
In other words, there’s no specific country limitation for Havarti. The name Havarti can be used, according to the Codex standard, provided that the product is in conformity with the standard.
So what’s the solution to this GI dilemma? As Jaime Castaneda, the CCFN’s executive director, points out, a “better model for GIs is easily achievable,” and can be seen with recent EU rulings on Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar and Holsteiner Tilsiter. Indeed, the EU a few years ago granted GI status to Gouda Holland and Edam Holland, both of which, as the names imply, can only be made in the Netherlands.
The solution with Havarti would be to simply protect the name “Danish Havarti.” This would enable consumers (at least the ones who care about such things) to distinguish between Havarti made, for example, in Denmark from Havarti made in Wisconsin using Danish know-how and technology.
Unfortunately, Denmark’s efforts to protect “Havarti” indicate that the EU, or at least some of its members, will go to great lengths to protect cheese names that have long been used globally.
But trying to claw back cheese names that have been in worldwide use for decades is nothing more than a protectionist ploy, and doesn’t help anybody, or any country, sell more cheese. DG.
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