During the 2023 Anuga trade show, the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO Consortium took assertive measures to expose deceptive advertising involving counterfeit Parmigiano Reggiano, prompting swift action from German authorities.
This incident underscores a recurring challenge where imitation ‘Parmesan’ products find their way into the European Union, a region where they are unequivocally prohibited from both commercialization and promotion. In this particular case, the product in question – American grated cheese adorned with the ‘Parmesan’ label (as depicted in the image) – was prominently displayed on a commercial billboard.
The Consortium promptly sought the involvement of German regulatory bodies. Subsequently, these authorities issued an injunction, requiring the American company to obscure the term ‘Parmesan’ as presented in their advertising materials. Following further scrutiny, and upon discovering the company’s failure to comply with this directive, the Consortium took the matter to the Cologne Court. Remarkably, the Court acted swiftly, issuing a restraining order that not only prohibited the operator from advertising ‘Parmesan’ cheese in Germany using the disputed image but also mandated the surrender of all related products and materials in violation of this injunction to a court-appointed official. The court-appointed official executed this order, effectively concealing the ‘Parmesan’ term in the cheese image displayed.
It’s worth noting that this incident aligns with a significant precedent set by the European Commission and the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO Protection Consortium back in February 2008, when they secured a landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice. This ruling definitively established that the term ‘Parmesan’ is not a generic label but rather a clear reference to the ‘Parmigiano Reggiano PDO’ designation, and, as such, cannot be used for cheeses that do not conform to the prescribed specifications.