Current UK laws on compositional standards for cheese mean cheese makers are not allowed to use the word Cheddar on their low-fat Cheddars as Cheddar must contain at least 48% fat in dry matter. But these rules along with compositional standards on British territorial cheeses will be abolished once new European food-labelling regulations come into force in 2013.
Dairy UK is now working with the dairy industry and retailers on a new code of practice to ensure compositional and labelling standards for Cheddar and British territorial cheeses are adhered to once the laws that currently govern them are superseded by EU law. "There is a potential for consumers to be misled and for inferior cheeses potentially masquerading as territorial cheeses if we don't make sure standards are adhered to," a Dairy UK spokesman said.
As part of the new industry code of practice, the rules on what can be described as Cheddar would be revised to allow reduced-fat variants to be labelled as 'Cheddar', he added.
Similarly, the new code of practice would also allow territorial cheese makers to sell reduced-fat versions of their cheeses using the territorial's name 'low-fat Red Leicester', for instance.
Reduced-fat cheese is one of the fastest-growing sub-categories in cheese but has to date been held back by manufacturers' inability to label their cheeses using well-established cheese varieties such as Cheddar. For example, I Can't Believe It's Not Cheddar, launched earlier this year by Milk Link under licence from Unilever, has caused confusion among some consumers, with one shopper asking "what is it I gather it's not Cheddar" on the moneysavingexpert.com online forum.
"The new code will be drawn up in a manner that will allow consumers to understand what the products are," the Dairy UK spokesman said.