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Slicing through Europe’s food name baloney

I ate of lot of cold cuts in sack lunches in my youth, mostly baloney. Actually, I think the first thing I learned to cook (and about the only thing I learned to cook, my wife would assert) was fried baloney.

And baloney was my first thought when I read about the latest attempt by the European Union (EU) to unfairly protect their farmers and food makers from competition in domestic and export markets.

For a while now, the Europeans have been trying to push their ill-conceived idea of what are called geographic indicators for food labels. Under their scheme, common names of foods, such as Parmesan cheese, Greek yogurt and Black Forest ham, could only be used on products that come from those parts of Europe.

The list goes on and on. Hence, the name bologna, if the Europeans have their way, would be off limits to any meat processor not in the Italian region where the cold cut originated.

Trade pact nonsense

To make their geographical name plan work, the Europeans are slipping the geographic indicator language into trade deals. Under a recent trade deal with Canada, the EU made sure that only cheese from Greece can be called feta and have Greek letters on the package. Feta cheese imported to Canada from the United States will have to be called "feta-style" or "feta-like."

The EU also persuaded Central American countries to sign a deal to restrict use of the name "bologna," closing a potential export market for U.S. companies. They are trying the same things in other parts of the world.

Now the Europeans, with their economy sputtering, want a free trade agreement with the United States. But many American food makers, and lawmakers, fear that the Europeans will strong arm the geographical indicators language into it.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Iowa’s Charles Grassley, recently sent a letter urging U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to stand tough against any attempt by the EU to add geographical indictors on cheese, meats and other food products into the agreement.

The agreement, the senators said, is designed to foster free trade. Adding geographic indicators will do exactly the opposite, and the European effort should be dumped, maybe at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.