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Europe wants U.S. ban on Parmesan, other names

Would Parmesan by any other name be as tasty atop your pasta? A ripening trade battle might put that to the test.

As part of trade talks, the European Union wants to ban the use of European names like Parmesan, feta and Gruyère on cheese made in the United States.

The argument is that the American-made cheeses are shadows of the original European varieties and cut into sales and identity of the European cheeses.

The Europeans say Parmesan should only come from Parma, Italy, not those familiar green cylinders that American companies sell. Feta should only be from Greece, even though feta isn't a place. The EU argues it "is so closely connected to Greece as to be identified as an inherently Greek product."

So, a little "hard-grated cheese" for your pasta? It doesn't have quite the same ring as Parmesan.

U.S. dairy producers, cheesemakers and food companies are all fighting the idea, which they say would hurt the $4 billion domestic cheese industry and endlessly confuse consumers.

The European Union would not say exactly what it is proposing or even whether it will be discussed this week as a new round of talks on an EU-United States free trade agreement opens in Brussels.

Though the EU has not laid out a public proposal, it is expected to attempt to restrict marketing of U.S.-made cheeses, possibly including Parmesan, Asiago, Gorgonzola, feta, fontina, grana, Gruyère, Muenster, Neufchatel and Romano.

And it may not be just cheese. Other products could include bologna, Black Forest ham, Greek yogurt, Valencia oranges and prosciutto, among other foods.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a leader of a bipartisan group of 55 senators opposed to such concessions to the EU, said artisanal cheese production is a growing industry across New York.

"Muenster is Muenster, no matter how you slice it," he said.

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