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French court rules on the appearance of striped cheese

Blessed are the French cheesemakers as a court in Paris has ruled in their favour, following a decade of lobbying

French court rules on the appearance of striped cheese
(Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

The stripe in the middle of a wheel of French Morbier cheese now has legal protection following a ruling by the Cour d’Appel in Paris, which said that Article 13 of the European regulations also protects a particular characteristic of a product.

“The visual aspect of Morbier cheese, with its central and horizontal stripe, is sufficiently specific to be protected, in the same way as the name ‘morbier’,” the Court ruled.

The name of the cheese and its recipe have been protected since 2002 by the acronym PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), but the Syndicat interprofessionnel du morbier had been lobbying for a decade for a broadening of the protection, due to numerous counterfeits. 

The band in the cheese is not mould, as some may believe. It is a thin layer of ash that started being added in the late 18th century when harsh winters in the Jura meant milk deliveries could not always get through to makers of Comté cheeses.

As a result, Jura farmers started making their own cheeses. But, because they did not always have enough milk to make sufficient quantities, they protected it by adding a layer of charcoal on top so the milk would remain fresh until the next milking.

Today, two wheels are curdled separately before being joined together with the line of carbon.

“Tomorrow, there will only be one product with that dark line, that visual line, which is a particular characteristic of our morbier. It’s unique, it’s inimitable, it’s really our story and it’s our cheese,” Joël Alpy, milk producer in the Jura and president of the Syndicat interprofessionnel du morbier told BFM TV.

The news is not only good for morbier producers as it sets a precedent for all other cheese producers.

“This is the first time that Article 13 of the European regulation has been used, which stipulates that the PDO protects the name but also a particular characteristic of a product that can mislead the consumer during the act of purchase,” explains Joël Alpy.

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POLITICS

French MPs vote to add the right to abortion to the constitution

Lawmakers in the French parliament voted on Thursday to add the right to abortion to the constitution in response to recent changes in the United States and Poland.

French MPs vote to add the right to abortion to the constitution

Members of parliament from the left-wing La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party and the ruling centrist coalition agreed on Thursday on the wording of the new clause, which was then put to a larger vote.

“The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy,” reads the proposed constitutional addition to article 66.

It was passed in the Assemblée nationale with a large majority – 337 to 32 against, but still needs to be approved in the Senate.    

“It’s a big step… but it’s just the first step,” said centrist MP Sacha Houlie from Macron’s Renaissance party.

The initiative was prompted by the US Supreme Court’s explosive decision this year to overturn the nationwide right to termination procedures for Americans.

In Europe, the conservative government of Poland has also heavily restricted abortion rights.

LFI lawmaker Mathilde Panot said the move was necessary in France to “protect ourselves against a regression”.   

In a speech to parliament, she cited the late French writer and women’s rights activist Simone de Beauvoir.

“We only need a political, economic or religious crisis for the rights of women to come into question,” she said.

The agreement was a rare instance of cooperation between the hard-left LFI and the centrist allies of President Emmanuel Macron – who no longer have an overall majority in the National Assembly.

A previous attempt to inscribe the right to abortion as well as contraception into the constitution, with different wording, was rejected by the conservative-dominated Senate in October.

Many conservative and Catholic politicians have announced their misgivings, seeing it as unnecessary given the legal protections already in place.

“It appears totally misplaced to open a debate which, although it exists in the United States, does not exist in France,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement this week.

“No political group is thinking about questioning access to abortions,” she said.

Parliamentary records initially showed Le Pen voting in favour of the change on Thursday, but these were later corrected to reveal she was not there for the vote. Her spokesman said this was due to a medical issue. MPs from her party and the right-wing Les Républicains abstained.

Abortion was legalised in France in 1974 in a law championed by health minister Simone Veil, a women’s rights icon granted the rare honour of burial at the Pantheon by Macron upon her death in 2018.

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