A number of food producers and organizations from multiple countries launched the Consortium for Common Food Names, an international initiative that seeks to stop efforts to restrict the use of generic food names, including such efforts by the European Commission.

The new consortium opposes any attempt to monopolize generic names that have become part of the public domain, such as parmesan, feta, provolone, bologna, salami and many others, as well as terms used by winemakers such as "classic", "vintage", "fine" and "superior". The consortium will seek to foster the adoption of an appropriate model that protects legitimate GIs like "Parmigiano Reggiano" while preserving the right of all producers to use common names like "parmesan".

The consortium is not opposed to proper geographical indications (GIs), like "Camembert de Normandie" and "Brie de Meaux" cheeses from France, and "Clare Island Salmon" from Ireland. For some specialized products such as these, made in a specific region, it has made sense for the European Commission (EC) to protect the regional name to help preserve the unique nature of that product. In fact, products from other parts of the world - such as Washington State Apples, Idaho Potatoes, Valle de Colchagua wine from Chile, or Thai Jasmine Rice - may also benefit from similar protection. The consortium supports these types of terms as a tool to promote distinctive products.

"No one country or entity should own common food names," said Jaime Castaneda, executive director of the new initiative, and senior vice president of trade policy at the U.S. Dairy Export Council. "If such efforts are successful, consumers will no longer recognize many of their favorite foods. Producers around the world will be forced to consider relabeling potentially billions of dollars' worth of food products.

"Arguing that any one group should have an exclusive right to use such names is like claiming that only Italians should be permitted to use the term 'pizza'," he said.

Many well-known foods trace their origins to Europe, but thanks to decades of trade and the emigration of individual food artisans, these products are now made and enjoyed throughout the world. Over time, this has greatly increased the popularity of European varietals like parmesan and salami, to the commercial benefit of European and non-European producers and consumers alike.

In fact, many producers in countries throughout Europe and around the world have been making these foods for decades, if not centuries.

"Italian, Swiss and Danish immigrants brought to our land their knowledge, traditions and names of food products," said Miguel Paulón, president of the Argentine Dairy Industry Federation. "Many of the cheese names we use have become protected GIs in Europe, despite the fact that these names were established here for more than a century as generic names, or have become part of trademarks that identify local producers. Moreover, several of those terms were also adopted many years ago by the international food standards Codex program."