Are you eating a bona-fide burger?

Tom Smith

Take a moment to consider your favourite burger topping and you would be hard pressed to limit it to just one. The possibilities are limitless and everybody has their favourite. September 18th is National Cheese Burger Day and a celebration of one of the most popular food choices for Americans. Alone Americans eat 50 billion burgers a year![1]

For those that are salivating at the thought of a burger for lunch, should set their sights on the world record burger, weighing in at 913.54 kg (2,014 lb), prepared by Black Bear Casino Resort (USA), Carlton, Minnesota, USA, on 2 September 2012.[2]

Cheese burger day

Cheese is undoubtedly one of the most popular toppings however who would have thought that it would be possible to create fake cheese!

Parmigiano Reggiano is named after the producing areas, which comprises the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena as well as parts of Bologna, and Mantua in Italy. Under European law, only cheese produced in these provinces complying with strict specifications may be named Parmigiano Reggiano and since 1996 Parmigiano Reggiano has been a protected designation of origin (PDO). In addition, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2008 that Parmesan is an evocation of Parmigiano Reggiano meaning that, in the EU, Parmesan is protected as well as Parmigiano Reggiano. As such, Kraft Heinz, an American food company, was recently forced to stop selling its ‘Parmesan’ in Europe as it breached European law.

Parmigiano is the Italian adjective for Parma, and the adjective for Reggio Emilia is Reggiano. Outside the EU, the name Parmesan is used for cheeses similar to Parmigiano Reggiano because it is considered generic - but the name Parmigiano Reggiano is unambiguously protected.

As a result, Parmesan is the most imitated cheese in the world and abuse of the name brings significant harm to its producers. Whilst the denomination is protected throughout the EU, it is not effectively protected outside, leading to serious damage from commercial counterfeiting and abuse of the name. This is especially apparent in the USA, the largest market outside the EU, with exports of US $150 million a year.

Therefore the Consortium of Parmigiano-Reggiano has decided to take proactive steps to strengthen its historic trademark. To this end, NetNames will use its industry leading Marketplace Enforcement and Website Monitoring services to detect counterfeit Parmigiano Reggiano products for sale online and subsequently remove the websites using domain names containing the Parmigiano Reggiano trademark.[3]

Cheese alone is not the only source of fake supplies for burgers. In Jiangsu a coastal Chinese province north of Shangha, Police raided a counterfeit production plant in November 2015 and discovered a “beef-like substance…made through a process which combines pork, sodium nitrite, and various artificial flavors [sic] and seasonings.”

There are some quite serious concerns with this production facility, as excessive amounts of sodium nitrite can be a serious health risk. Investigations were allegedly found to have preservatives at levels 30 times higher than safety standards advise.[4]

Even more concerning is the use of other animals in the production of supposed beef (queezy people look away now). In November 2015, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security said police had raided a factory in China developing a beef labelled created from rat, fox and mink flesh.[5]

Suffice to say, there is only a small chance your lunchtime burger will be rat based, but if it is, remember to ask for extra pickles…

Happy Cheese Burger Day!