Cheese: “The AOP protects us from imitations”

Cheese: “The AOP protects us from imitations”

With 46 different cheese enjoying a Protected Origin Appellation (AOP), France is the European champion for cheeses with official quality labels, just squeaking past Italy. An AOP ensures consumers that they are getting a high-quality product, made in the place where it originated and respecting extremely precise specifications at every stage of production.

“An AOP also helps fight against imitations.”

An AOP also helps fight against imitations.

Interview with Joël Alpy, President of the Morbier Inter-Professional Syndicate.

What advantages did obtaining an AOP bring/grant?

“We got the Morbier AOP back in 2002; it ensures consumers that the Morbier they’re buying was made in the Jura from raw cow’s milk. There are now over four dozen cheese-makers and a dozen refiners producing 11,000 tons of this cheese —which is easily recognizable because of the thin black horizontal line running through its center. Obtaining the AOP helped us become better known and also to improve our product’s quality.”

What kind of protection does it grant in legal terms?

“First of all, the AOP protects use of the name. But it also protects us from imitations. A pasteurized milk cheese that looks like Morbier could mislead consumers. In 2020, the European Court ruled in our favor, confirming that AOP rules ban not only the use of the protected name, but they also ban copying the typical shape or appearance of an AOP if that could mislead consumers. The decision reinforces protection of the Morbier AOP and its specifications. The whole cheese sector is now waiting for the French legal system’s decision because it could set a precedent.”

What systems have you put into place to reinforce Morbier’s traceability?

“The entire sector has adopted an extremely precise security protocol and put a traceability system into place. On each wheel of cheese there is a tag made out of casein that specifies the day and month when, and the number of the dairy where it was made. From there, it is possible to work your way all the way back to the dairy farmer if there’s a problem. Prior to sale, each batch is analyzed. From milking the cow to the finished product, everything has been put into place to ensure that consumers get safe, healthy cheese.”

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