Signature Italian Cheese Sparks a Heated Debate

Nationalist pride and the bottom line fuel food for thought

Parmigiano-Reggiano. (Getty Images)
Parmigiano-Reggiano. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

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If things go the way Italy wants, American parmesan cheese would no longer be a thing. Same goes for Ukrainian. And anywhere else, for that matter, reports the Washington Post. That’s because generic parmesan would just go away. There would only be Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is made in the Italian countryside, and to precise specifications. There are just 330 dairies “whose wheels are tested with percussion hammers and then branded with markings if they pass puster,” the news outlet reports.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is just one of Italy’s edible national treasures the country is currently out to reclaim. As part of the effort, Italian diplomats are working with the European Union on trade deals, while government food cops in Rome are targeting knockoffs by “signing agreements with online marketplaces to crack down on the internet sale of faux Italian wines, sausages, cheeses, among others,” the WaPost reports.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is trademarked in the US and most other countries, and the term cannot be used for non-Italian cheese. With parmesan, though, “producers,” reports the WaPost, “have nothing stopping them.” That includes American dairy farms. And so a debate rages over when a nationally significant food should be able to be tweaked by foreigners.

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