CAEN, France (AFP) — Small producers of France's creamy raw milk Camembert cheese said Tuesday they had scored a victory against rivals who hoped to sell their mass-produced variety using the same label.
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 had 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 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.
The INAO is expected to back the committee's call for the defence of traditional cheesemaking in a ruling to be made public in the coming months, according to several producers.
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.
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