A notice given today in the US risks causing a rather unholy war. Swiss cheese makers have been angered by the moves by the US authorities to fill in the holes in Emmentaler cheese. The Swiss daily newspaper Blick was particularly offended: “Blasphemy!” it called.

According to the new rules, the holes present in Emmentaler cheese must now measure between 0.95cm and 2.06cm, causing much consternation among the Swiss traditionalists who maintain that the holes can and do actually measure up to 4cm across.

The guidelines will only be applicable in the US, but the Emmentaler Switzerland Association argue that it will be easy to tell the difference between the authentic cheese and its American counterpart. The Swiss cheese has a distinctive taste, said Erwin Kaufmann: “Slightly sweet, slightly sour, entirely aromatic.”

Only if the holes are cherry-sized is the cheese properly matured, he adds.

US advocates of the guidelines insist that if the holes are smaller, the cheese is easier to slice on the high-speed machines preferred by food processors. Urs Mrkstein from the Swiss Agriculture ministry believes however that the guidelines are in place because “Americans must want more cheese and less air in their sandwich.”

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