The European Commission has decided to refer Germany to the European Court of Justice for failure to abide by rules on protected designations of origin (PDO) relating to the name “Parmigiano Reggiano”.

The Commission claims Germany does not give full protection to this PDO within its territory. Use of the name, registered at European Union level since 1996, is by law exclusively reserved for producers within a specific geographical area in Italy who make the cheese in line with certain specifications.

Under the European legislation on PDOs, Member States are required to protect registered names against any misuse, imitation or evocation, even if the true origin of the product is indicated or the name is translated.

The Commission says cheeses not made in line with the Parmigiano Reggiano specifications continue to be sold on German territory under the name “Parmesan”, which in the eyes of the Commission is a translation through French of the Italian name.

Germany has argued that Parmesan should be considered as a generic name and not as a translation of “Parmigiano Reggiano”.