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Camembert war, most French controversy ever?

Germain Milet, Market Specialist France, Belgium & Luxembourg

France loves PGO, there are more than 100 PGO for food products in France not including drinks. One of the most famous, PGO “Camembert de Normandie” is at the heart of the so called Camembert war.

The parties

In France inside the camembert industry there are 2 main types of camembert, the standard one (Circ. 90 000 tons a year) and the premium PGO “Camembert de Normandie” (Circ. 6000 tons a year [A]), see below some of differences in terms of constraints.

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Since 1992, la guerre du Camembert, The Camembert war

For 3 decade there is a controversy in France between the 2 camemberts around the usage of the term “Normandie”. As Normandy is known to be the origin of camembert, many standard product claim on pack “Fabriqué en Normandie” (made in Normandy). This drives crazy the defenders of the PGO “Camembert de Normandie” who believe the term “Normandie” should be strictly reserved to PGO camembert.

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Left PGO camembert, Right Standard camembert

Images by: Germain Milet

 

2012, the legal field

After 20 years of more or less internal controversies in 2012 the ODG, defence and management organization, of PGO “Camembert de Normandie” filled a first official complaint to get references to Normandy strictly reserved to PGO [D]. After 3 years of legal debate the complaint was cancelled, but in 2018 all Camembert producers in Normandy entered negotiation together with national PGO protection body (INAO) under supervision of European Commission.

2020, the “coup de theatre”

After another 3 years of negotiations relayed in national media and with involvement of top French public figures and MP [E]. The parties seemed to have reached an agreement for an extended PGO allowing basically any camembert produced in Normandy with Normande cows to bear the PGO and granting and extra distinction to traditional raw milk based camembert. But that agreement was refused in last minute in a tight margin by the members of ODG. [F]

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Left PGO camembert produced by M MERCIER, Head of ODG
Right Richard Ramos MP distributing « PGO » camembert in French assembly to protest renovated PGO project

Image by: Germain Milet / Twitter: Richard Ramos

Since, back into the legal trenches

Without a proper agreement among parties, the French fraud service decided to make illegal the use of reference to Normandy to non PGO camembert. The producer had to comply with the decision by the 1st of January 2021 but many haven’t done so, keeping the “Fabriqué en normandie” mention or using innovative claims such as “Lait 100% normand” or milk collected in Normandy or traditional normandy cheese [G]. There are now 2 legal procedures under way involving the “Conseil d’Etat” supreme French administrative court… Quality marks protection is not an easy process.

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Left Standard camembert mentionning « made in Orne » a Normandy county
Right Standard camembert mentionning « Fabriqué en Normandie »

Images by: Germain Milet

References:

[A] CNAOL 2020 Chiffres clés des produits AOP et IGP file:///C:/Users/gMilet/Downloads/Cnaol%20Chiffres%20Cles%202020_BD%20(002).pdf

[B] Chambre d’agriculture Normandie https://normandie.chambres-agriculture.fr/fileadmin/user_upload/Normandie/506_Fichiers-communs/PDF/PEP/pep-camembert-etat-des-lieux.pdf

[C] INAO file:///C:/Users/gMilet/Downloads/CDCCamembertdeNormandie%20(3).pdf

[D] https://www.leparisien.fr/week-end/le-parisien-magazine-touche-pas-a-mon-camembert-03-02-2017-6646563.php

[E] https://www.lamanchelibre.fr/actualite-681091-camembert-aop-herve-morin-traite-d-abruti-un-depute

[F] https://www.reussir.fr/lesmarches/vers-de-nouvelles-batailles-dans-la-guerre-du-camembert

[G] https://www.paris-normandie.fr/id167187/article/2021-02-19/pourtant-reservee-aux-camemberts-aop-la-mention-fabrique-en-normandie-est