‘Imitation’ Asiago? EU trade deal forces Canadian cheeses to change names

Video: The new Canada-EU trade agreement could mean we’ll be buying faux feta at the local grocer Shirlee Engel explains.

TORONTO – Would you eat Munster-type cheese? What about Gorgonzola-style cheese?

More details on the Canada-EU free trade agreement unveiled yesterday contained new rules about naming popular cheeses.

The labels Asiago, feta, fontina, Gorgonzola and Munster cheeses will live on for current producers in Canada, but any future producers will have to add a word like “kind,” “type,” “style,” or “imitation,” which may be off-putting to consumers.

“This will be providing greater protection on the Canadian market to European names compared to the protection that is currently conferred to Canadian dairy terms such as butter or cream or milk,” said Yves Leduc, Director of International Trade for the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

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Feta cheese in an Ottawa cheese shop Oct. 30, 2013. Global News. Global News

Leduc said this would affect all new entrants; cheese processers that aren’t currently processing the above cheeses but would like to start producing them. He didn’t have an estimate of how many that would be. Agriculture Canada also couldn’t provide how many new producers of these types of cheese pop up each year in time for publication.

CETA will also double the current amount of European cheese entering the Canadian market to an estimated 30,000 tonnes. Their consolation was unfettered access to the EU dairy marketplace, but Leduc says that’s misleading.

“The European Union laws prohibits use of these names and limits the production of these cheeses only by producers in certain areas of the European Union,” he said. “So it contradicts the message that we heard that Canada has gained unfettered access to the European market.”

Munster cheese in an Ottawa cheese shop Oct. 30, 2013. Global News. Global News

International Trade Minister Ed Fast said the changes weren’t a comprise on Canada’s part.

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“We were able to secure outcomes in other areas of agreement that are of great economic importance to Canada that we would never have been able to achieve had we not been flexible at the table,” he said.

Of course, some Canadian cheese-makers are trying to look on the bright side. Margaret Peters of Ontario’s Glengarry Fine Cheese shop says her artisan-style products are similar to European cheeses but with uniquely Canadian names.

“Maybe companies will pay closer attention to naming cheeses so we have more regional and national identity,” said Peters.

With a report from Shirlee Engel 

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