20
May/03

Ham and Cheese Defeat Wal-Mart Before ECJ


Producers of Prosciutto di Parma ham and Grana Padano cheese prevailed in the European Court of Justice as the ECJ upheld laws requiring purveyours of products bearing those appellations of origin to perform certain processes (in this case slicing the ham and grating the cheese) in the region of origin.  Parties to the cases (including Wal-Mart’s ASDA supermarket) had been importing the products from Italy and processing them abroad.  The Court, in its unofficial press release, noted that:

. . . the grating of cheese and slicing of ham and their packaging constitute important operations which may damage the quality and authenticity and consequently the reputation of the PDO [protected designation of origin] if those requirements are not complied with. The specifications for Grana Padano cheese and Parma ham define checks and detailed strict operations in order to preserve the reputation of those two products.

The PDOs of those products would not be protected in the same way by an obligation imposed on operators outside the region of production to inform consumers by appropriate labelling that grating, slicing and packaging have taken place outside that region. There are therefore no alternative, less restrictive measures to attain the objective pursued.

However, the Court finds that the protection conferred by a PDO does not normally extend to operations such as grating, slicing and packaging the product. The Court states that those operations are prohibited to third parties outside the region of production only if that is expressly laid down in the specification. The principle of legal certainty requires that adequate publicity be given to those prohibitions – for example being mentioned … – to bring them to the attention of third parties. In the absence of such publicity, those prohibitions cannot be relied on before a national court.

The link to the decision will be available shortly on the www.curia.eu.int site.

More info on Parma here.

More info on Grano Padano here.

European Union’s searchable database of PDOs here.

 

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