The Swiss authorities have acted to protect one of the best-loved Swiss cheeses, Gruyère, from its imitators. On Friday, the Federal Office for Agriculture awarded the western Swiss cheese the quality certification AOC - "appellation d'origine controllée".This content was published on June 12, 2003 - 14:13
"The official registration of the Gruyère appellation d'origine will stand out as one of the important dates in the long history of this cheese," Manfred Boetsch, the director of the office told a news conference.
The announcement comes three years after four western cantons which produce Gruyère - Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchatel and Jura - requested the certification as a means of protecting the authenticity of the slow maturing hard cheese.
They argued that only their cheese and that produced in certain French-speaking areas of canton Bern should be entitled to use the Gruyère name.
But the four cantons ran into opposition from cheese makers in other parts of the country, notably in canton Bern. In all 53 objections were made to the awarding of the AOC.
One of the principle objections was that 45 per cent of so-called Gruyère cheese is manufactured outside the geographical area covered by the four cantons. Even far eastern areas of the country, including St Gallen, produce their versions of the cheese.
Although it marks a significant victory for cheese makers from the four cantons, Friday's granting of the AOC charter is just the start of the battle to protect the Gruyère name.
The next important step is to have the Gruyère charter recognised by the European Union, so that the Gruyère name can be protected in France, where the main competition is to be found.
That process could take up to five years, as Brussels is still waiting for rulings from the European Court of Justice on the Feta and Parmesan cheese brands.
Gruyère cheese has been produced in the region surrounding the small town of the same name in canton Fribourg for at least 1,000 years. With its distinctive flavour, it is enjoyed on its own or as a component in many Swiss dishes, including fondue.
swissinfo with agencies
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