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Lehigh Valley

EU plans to take back their cheese names

EU plans to take back their cheese names

NAZARETH, Pa. - Calandra's Cheese has been in business in the Lehigh Valley for 65 years.

"We haven't changed a lot of what we do. Our products are still made in ways most manufacturers would consider old fashioned," explained owner Charlie Calandra.

The small business makes cheese fresh almost daily.

"We make fresh ricotta, mozzarella, we make provolone, smoked provolone, smoked mozzarella," Calandra said.

But a ripening trade battle between the European Union and the United States may put those names to the test.

EU Officials want to ban names like asiago, feta and muenster because those cheeses come from specific geographical areas on their turf.

The Europeans say Parmesan cheese should only come from Parma, Italy, not from your local deli or in those familiar green cylinder containers.

Calandra admits there is a difference between a specific cheese made in America, and one by the same name imported from Europe.

"The flavor's gonna be a little different, the texture's gonna be a little different, but they're quality cheeses," he said. "I just don't think it's a worthwhile battle."

The EU claims the American versions of their cheeses cut into their sales and the identity of the cheeses.

The idea has sparked an international food fight of sorts.

"This is outrageous," shared Pa. Senator Pat Toomey. "I'm very pleased to be in a bipartisan effort that's gonna make sure that this just isn't gonna happen."

Senator Toomey along with New York Senator Charles Shumer are spearheading an effort to fight the possible name changes.

"We ended up getting a total of 55 senators to sign this letter and to stress to our trade representatives that it would be unacceptable that the U.S. negotiate away our ability to call cheese cheese."

Cheese is big business here in the U.S.

Dairy producers, cheese makers and food companies are all fighting the idea saying it would hurt the $4-billion domestic industry and confuse consumers.

But Calandra says banning cheese names most likely won't change the way people buy.

"If they weren't buying the imported cheeses before I don't know what difference it's gonna make for them."

Canada recently agreed to impose restrictions on some common cheese names.

For example, feta products now manufactured in the country can only be marketed as feta-like or feta-style.

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