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Will the 'real' Camembert please stand up

Small producers of France's Camembert cheese scored a victory against rivals who hoped to sell their mass-produced 'plonk' using the same label.

by: AFP | 25 Mar 2008

A government-run institute is set to rule in favour of traditional Camembert producers, saying that Camembert made with pasteurised milk cannot carry the coveted Appelation d'Origine Controllee (AOC) label.

"We are relieved," said Thierry Graindorge, one of the small producers who led the battle to save the "real Camembert" from production using treated milk.

France's "Camembert war" erupted in March last year when two big producers, Lactalis and Isigny-Sainte-Mere, had switched to using treated milk for some of their brands on the grounds that it is safer.

Lactalis and Isigny-Sainte-Mere had argued for dropping the requirement that raw milk should be used in the production of Camember to qualify for the AOC label.

A Committee for the Defence of Authentic Camembert was created and last month the group voted to "preserve the mandatory use of raw milk in the production of AOC Camembert," said Graindorge.

A commission of inquiry was set up by the National Institute for Quality and Certificates of Origin (INAO) which decides what qualifies for AOC status in France.

For cheese-lovers, the difference between a genuine "lait cru" Camembert produced in France's northwest Normandy region and the common supermarket variety made with pasteurised milk is like the difference between vintage wine and a mass-produced plonk.

But production of the traditional brand is considered more costly because it involves many health and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of bacteria such as listeria.

Is it time to start regulating the "plonk" we get at local supermarkets as well?

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