A Look at the European Union – Part 2 of 3
The highest form of flattery is said to be imitation, but when it comes to copying great traditional products with centuries, or even millennia of tradition behind them, and cutting corners and/or using different ingredients in the process, in effect this bocomes not flattery but deceit.
The challenge that the EU is facing in the effort to identify, file, and register as many traditional food products throughout the European Union’s 25 member countries, is truly colossal. Consider the fact that there are some 650 products currently under consideration to receive one of the new European classifications for the protection of the names and methods of production of some of the world’s greatest food products.
The classifications are:
- Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
- Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
- Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG)
plus a fourth classification that identifies
- Organic products.
The products that have already been classified by any of the above classifications range from salami to wine, include both fresh and processed food, oil, vinegar and beer, among others.
Obtaining any of the above classifications is anecessary, though long and arduous process, but the traditional products that carry it, are guaranteed to have been made according to traditional methods, thus perpetuating the standard of quality acquired during centuries of experience. This is a protection for consumers, assuring them that they are buying products which are genuine.
Reason why the Europeans food classification should be of interest to US food professionals
For one, there's the cost.
Due partly to the unfavorable exchange rate for the US dollar compared to the European Euro, all imported products are more expensive, thus it would be nice to have some guarantee that the cheese or wine that we are buying are truly what the label says it is. There are in fact US-made imitation products that are smartly made to look very similar to the imported originals and can cost almost the same. In this case, the presence of the related European certification logo on the package would reassure the consumer.
Another consideration is related to safety. This new European food-labeling system makes it much harder for evildoers to tamper with the products, thus ensuring that the imported food items are safe, authentic, and that it was made how and where it was supposed to have been. The classification logo can additionally help resellers merchandise these products in their store, making them stand out from among the numerous imitations that, in some cases, sell for far less, a fact that causes confusion among consumers.
Finally, US food producers and state organizations are contemplating taking a similar initiative. After all, reason the US producers and trade leaders, if Prosciutto di Parma and Kalamata olives are name-protected, why then not the Idaho potatoes, the lobster from Maine, the California cheese, North Dakota beef, or the Florida oranges? Of course, a state, organization or producers, must make the case that such products are tangibly unique and excellent because of being grown or produced in the related areas.
Basically, the whole designation system goes far beyond the protection of traditional foods and wines. It aims to protect the environment, traditions and the culture of ancient European communities. In the future it may do so for producers from other areas.