Innovative cheese, which denomination? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers

Dear Dario good morning,

our industry is about to launch an innovative cheese on the market, or in any case a highly innovative dairy product.

The composition of the product is similar to that of a cacioricotta type cheese (milk, rennet and salt, with the addition of whey), while the shape and method of use are 'revolutionary'. Yet top secret, until the official launch.

I would therefore like your opinion on the possibility of using the name 'cheese'on this type of product, beyond even the different appearance.

Many thanks and a warm greeting, Francesco

The lawyer Dario Dongo, Ph.D. in international food law, answers

Dear Francesco good morning,

in this historical period different start-up they raise millionaire investments to produce imitations of milk and cheese, as well as meat and fish, starting from cellular agriculture. These products, however, as we have seen, can only be placed on the EU market following specific authorizations such as Novel Food. (1)

The innovation you mentioned, on the other hand, appears to be consistent with the applicable European and national legislation. Both with regard to process and product requirements, (2) and consequently for the use of the name 'cheese'. Regardless of its appearance and method of use.

1) Milk and dairy products, single CMO

The first pillar on which the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is based is the Common Organization of Markets (CMO). That is to say, the general regulation of production and trade of the products mentioned in Annex I to the TFEU (Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union). 'Milk and dairy products'are therefore subject to specific definitions in the so-called single CMO:

- 'milk is exclusively the product of normal mammary secretion, obtained through one or more milkings, without any addition or subtraction’,

- 'dairy products are products derived exclusively from milk, it being understood that substances necessary for their manufacture may be added, provided that they are not used to totally or partially replace any of the components of milk'(EU reg. 1308/2013, Annex VII, Part III, points 1,2. See notes 3,4).

2) Cheese, legal name

The legal name from 'cheeseon the other hand, it can be derived from European Commission Decision 97/80 / EC, laying down rules for the application of Directive 96/16 / EC, relating to statistical surveys to be carried out in the dairy products sector.

'Formaggio: solid or semi-solid product, fresh or ripe, obtained by coagulation of milk, skimmed milk, semi-skimmed milk, cream, whey or buttermilk cream, or a combination of these products, with the action of pressure or other appropriate coagulating agents, and partially dripping the whey that forms as a result of this coagulation process (Codex Alimentarius - FAO, Volume XVI, Norma A-6)'.

3) Whey and cheese

The re-use virtuoso of whey in cheese production, as well as being rooted in some dairy traditions typical of the Bel Paese, is now promoted by the European Commission itself, in a logic of upcycling (5) and circular economy. Decision 2017/1508 / EU - in describing the best environmental management practices, the sectoral environmental performance indicators and defining examples of excellence for the food production sector - expressly refers to the 'whey recovery ' (part 3.8.1).

'The BEMP (Best Environmental Management Practices) consists in recovering all the whey deriving from cheese production and using it for other applications, according to the following list of priorities:

- concentrate, filter and / or evaporate the whey to produce whey powder, whey protein concentrate, lactose and other by-products,

- manufacture whey-based products intended for human consumption, such as cheeses or whey-based drinks,

- use whey for animal feed or as fertilizer or treat it in an anaerobic digestion plant. '

Provisional conclusions

The same royal decree-law 15 October 1925 n. 2033 - albeit of a lower rank, in the hierarchy of legal sources, compared to EU norms - indicates that 'IThe name of "cheese" or "cacio" is reserved for the product obtained from whole or partially or totally skimmed milk, or from cream, following acid or rennet coagulation, also making use of enzymes and cooking salt. '

On that basis, cheese made from milk, rennet and salt - with or without separation and possible reuse of the product - can be called as such, whatever its appearance and method of use.




(1) Dario Dongo. Imagindairy, the 'milk' from cellular agriculture. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.12.21,

(2) The only hypothesis in which the production process has never been used for the production of food in the EU before 15.5.97 and involves'significant changes in the composition or structure of the food affecting its nutritional value, metabolism or content of undesirable substances'. Having to apply - to the recurrence of such hypotheses, as in those of cellular agriculture productions - the discipline of Novel Food (EU reg. 2015/2283, article 3.2.vii)

(3) The reg. EU 1308/2013 also clarifies that 'sare reserved only for dairy products (a) the following designations used at all stages of marketing: (...) viii) cheese'

(4) Dario Dongo. 'Cheese sounding', the EU Court of Justice confirms the ban. DO (Food and Agriculture Requirements). 15.6.17,

(5) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Upcycling, the improved reuse in the agri-food chain. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.10.21,

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