Threatened by coronavirus, makers of Parmigiano Reggiano have won temporary relief from the strict EU rules they need to follow in order to receive a protected name label for their gourmet cheese.
The flaky delicacy from northern Italy is classed under European law as a “protected designation of origin,” which is a huge financial boost to producers, but also imposes onerous guidelines on them.
Under the EU rules, Parmesan can be made only once a day, in the morning, with a blend of milk from evening and morning milking. Producers feared it would be hard to maintain that punishing timeline during the pandemic because the virus will deplete the workforce in small dairies.
In response, Italy’s agriculture ministry decided to issue a waiver on the regulations and notified the measure to Brussels on Thursday, a European Commission spokesperson told POLITICO.
“There is the risk, nearly the certainty, that in some small dairies … a worker will get the virus and won’t be able to produce cheese. In that case, we can take the 1,200 liters of milk which are needed to make one wheel of cheese and bring them to a neighboring dairy to make cheese in the afternoon,” said a spokesperson for the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano producers.
The consortium also set up a reserve list of retired cheesemakers and volunteers who could take over production in case of need.
“If we are authorized to produce Parmigiano during the morning, the afternoon and the evening, people on the reserve list will be able to … take the place of sick cheesemakers,” the consortium spokesperson added.
The temporary waiver, which is envisaged by EU law for sanitary reasons, will be published on the EU’s database for geographical indications “tomorrow or as soon as possible,” the Commission spokesperson said.