Prosciutto di Parma is coming soon to the tables of Canadian consumers with its own name. That is the result of the free trade agreement – CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) – between the European Union and Canada that shall enter into force in 2018. This is an historic achievement, states the Prosciutto di Parma Consortium. In fact, before this agreement, in Canada and in other Anglo-Saxon countries there was no system of protection for PDO and PGI products. Protection was reserved for the owner of the trademark: that is to say, the one who had registered it first. Stefano Fanti, director of the Prosciutto di Parma Consortium, comments: This is an achievement that will bring many benefits to our product, starting with the recognition on the market by our consumers. In fact, producers will be finally be able to sell our ham in Canada with the correct denomination ‘Prosciutto di Parma’ . Before the CETA agreement, Prosciutto di Parma was already present in Canada but for over 20 years it was sold under the names “The Original Prosciutto” and “Le Jambon Original” since the “Parma” trademark had already been purchased by the Canadian company Maple Leaf Foods which sells, among other things, its own cured ham using that name.
The CETA solution
The long legal battle between Maple Leaf Foods and Prosciutto di Parma Consortium had been suspended when, about seven years ago, the Consortium caught wind of CETA negotiations between Canada and the European Union, and decided to try a different tactic. Mr. Fanti instead dedicated his energy at lobbying Brussels. That tactic proved to be more effective. It wasn’t difficult to convince European lawmakers – especially after showing that other food products, including several regional cheeses, would also benefit. The Canadian side, too, seemed open to discussions.
The final deal
A deal was eventually reached, and CETA officially implemented in September of this year. The agreement requires Canada to protect the use of geographical indications – food products originating in the territory, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. This agreement will allow both Prosciutto di Parma and Maple Leaf’s “Parma” brands to co-exist in Canadian stores. Producers in Parma are now busy changing their labels and preparing their shipments to Canada. Ham with the official “Prosciutto di Parma” labels should make their way onto grocery shelves over the next few months. After the long fight, the Consortium manager said he is thrilled that they’ve reached an agreement. For us, this is very important, Mr. Fanti said. Finally, at least, there is a way to protect the name. Finally, we have the chance to make consumers understand the real thing.