Thursday, February 26, 2009

Market for Camembert

An important part of European Union trade law is the control of the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC). (This is the locational brand name that, for example, makes Champagne--sparkling wine made in the French Champagne region using the methode champagnoise--different from Cava, the sparkling wine made in Spain by the same method. Which brings us to the question of Camembert de Normandie, the French cheese that, according to the Camembert Charter, must be made by hand from raw (unpasteurized) milk.

Because raw milk can harbor disease causing bacteria, the costs of making cheese safely from raw milk is greater than from pasteurized milk. Because of health concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration controls the interstate sale of raw milk and cheeses made from raw milk. All of which brings us back to France, the home of both Camembert and pasteurization. Der Spiegel reports that one of France's largest cheese producers has just given up a long campaign, citing health concerns, to change the Camembert Charter to allow pasteurized milk to be used. But consumers and other producers successfully resisted, and it remains the case that no cheese made with pasteurized milk can be sold as le Camembert de Normandie.

I can't quite tell if this is brand protection, some other kind of protectionism, or if it is related to the kind of repugnance associated with the resistence to genetically modified crops in Europe. But it makes for a good story, and reflects some of the complexities of buying, selling, and labelling food.


Alex said...

Re "methode champagnoise": it's actually "methode champenoise".

Re, allowing people to use a protected brand name to describe products that are quite different from the original (e.g. "camembert" for NON-raw-milk cheese, or, "pasta" for stuff made other than with durum wheat, etc etc), as a consumer I'm VERY much in favor of controls -- it saves me from having to read the small print (if it's even there) to find out something about what I'm buying. But then, I _do_ come from Europe (Italy -- where we DO care A LOT about our food quality)...

Anonymous said...