That Famous Mustard … uses Canadian seeds!

Terroir so tied to the mystique of France, its luxury food, wine and famous names, has long been a magnet for outsiders hunting  ‘genuine’ France.

A Maille mustard shop on a busy street corner ...

A Dijon mustard shop on a busy street corner in the city.  (Credit: Wikipedia)

(Read more French News here)
Yet if this website is correct, at least nine popular produits du terroir are anything but 100% French. Among the products flagged up by the buy French website Achetons-Francais are: La charcuterie corse, La moutarde de Dijon, Le jambon d’Aoste, Les couteaux Laguiole, Le savon de Marseille, Les champignons de Paris, Le melon charentais, Le camembert de Normandie, L’huile d’olive du Midi. (Corsican porkmeats, Dijon mustard, Aosta ham, Laguiole knives, Marseille soap, Paris mushrooms, Charentais melon, Camembert de Normandie, Midi Oil Olive)

These says Achetons-Francais are products “branded with a 100% French name, lacking an Appellation d’Origine (AOC or Designation of Origin), but comprised of 100% international content …  Some are presented as terroir flagships, but a closer look suggests the claims are shaky as they use raw materials imported from abroad,  offer  products out of season, or use brand-names that are confusing …”, the site adds.

The website’s claims are set out below:

La charcuterie corse: “This is marketed as one of the purest traditional French products. Yet Corsican pork has no AOC classification. Unless the consumer actually visits Corsica, he will not find any charcuterie corse in France that is not produced from raw materials often sourced elsewhere. Thus, despite the Moor’s head brand and the words “Product of the Island of Beauty” on its labels, Corsican donkey salami is imported from Argentina and hams are sometimes composed of carcasses imported from the French mainland.


‘Buy French’ urges this website keen to show patriotic support for nationally manufactured products

La moutarde de Dijon: “To make Dijon mustard you need vinegar must, water, salt and seeds from … Canada! Contrary to what many believe, the mustard used in preparing this famous product does not come from the Dijon region. One reason for this is that in the early 1950s, after World War II, the introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy prompted farmers to lose interest in growing mustard because it offered no access to CAP subsidies. The result is that 90% of mustard seeds used to make Dijon mustard now come from Canada.”

Le jambon d’Aoste: “This is one of the most widely consumed hams in France, but it has nothing to do with ham from the Italian town of Aosta. This product is actually made in France, in a municipality of the same name in Isere …!  And unlike its Italian counterpart this one is cured. The subterfuge worked for years because the trademark ‘Jambon d’Aoste’ was owned by the Aosta group France’s  leading charcuterie maker. It took a ban by the European Commission on the use of confusing terms in describing food products in the EU for the ambiguity to cease. The brand has since been renamed ‘Jambon Aoste’ dropping the ‘of’.”

Les couteaux Laguiole: “The bee, the slightly raised thin blade, the cross on the handle … many believe that these symbols on the famous handcrafted Laguiole knives are marks of authenticity. Wrong. Most of these knives are Chinese counterfeits!  The cutlery manufacturer never filed a patent on their most famous French knife so for more than a century Laguiole has been counterfeited in France and abroad. Today fewer than 40% of Laguiole knives are made in the Aveyron village that bears the same name! This however could soon change. To beat the counterfeiting, the local manufacturer recently registered the trademark ‘Laguiole guaranteed origin‘.”

Le savon de Marseille: “Alongside pastis and lavender, this soap is a longstanding symbol of Provence. The only problem is that the soaps labeled savon de Marseille are not all made in Provence. For although the Marseille soap-making process dates from the Middle Ages, the trademark is not registered. As a result: the largest soap-makers are now Chinese and Turks while the vegetable oils used in the soap, including palm oil, are often sourced abroad, with savon de Marseille soap making a brief stopover in Marseille on the way to the retailers. To protect the authenticity of its locally-made soap, the makers have published a Provencal quality charter containing the  genuine recipe that sets their soap apart from its imitators. But consumers still find it difficult to differentiate at a glance …”

Les champignons de Paris: “The only Parisian aspect of these mushrooms is the word Paris in their name. Worse, most are imported and supermarket shelves are usually filled with mushrooms from the US, China or the Netherlands — the three main producer countries. While once they were grown in the capital, the only place these famous mushrooms are now cultivated is in Saumur, a town in Maine-et-Loire which turns out 70% of the national crop.”

Le melon charentais: “This is the flagship of French melons. Yellow or green, the Charentais melon is the pride of producers in the Cognac region whose clay and limestone soils perfectly suits the fruit. But unlike its Cavaillon cousin, Charente melon has no AOC. As a result, summer excepted, Charentais melons on market stalls do not come from Cognac but from Spain and Morocco! In winter, the market is squarely out of season and supplied from the Caribbean and Senegal …”

Not all Camembert is the real McCoy

Le camembert de Normandie: “Camembert cheese, the gastronomic heart of French cuisine, is by far the most widely copied cheese found in supermarkets. One reason is that since the term Camembert has fallen into the public domain, the designation can be used by any cheese maker in any country. Despite protection from the  “Camembert de Normandie” AOC, which has existed since 1983, many manufacturers use descriptions that are very close to the protected terminology such as  “Camembert made in Normandy.” The differences between the AOC and its imitators include the use of pasteurised rather than raw milk, and refining and manufacturing shortcuts that are not subject to any rules. These imitations pretend to be part of the Normandy terroir, but closer examination shows them up for what they are. The imitators use imported raw materials (milk from China or the rest of Europe), indulge in often misleading labeling, include unspecified additives, make the cheese outside the boundaries of the AOC region or have a vague representative nameplate office in the region to give them authenticity.”

L’huile d’olive du Midi: “Rare and expensive, French olive oil is certainly one premium product subjected to the worst in fraudulent labeling. In 2006, only 56% of all oil samples were ‘compliant’ with the regulations, some bottles tested contained up to 50% sunflower oil or the labels falsely stated origins or olive variety. This symbol of Mediterranean cuisine in fact has only seven protected designations of origin and an ‘Huile de Provence’ AOC. This means many producers muddle the picture by including labels showing landscapes evoking the Mediterranean or an un-official region they call  ‘huile de Provence-Côte d’azur.’ One of the most common scams is to replace the olive oil with olive pomace oil, a residue extracted from the olive pulp after the first press, and difficult for a non-expert to detect.”

Here are websites of several Made in France products and outlets gathered by Achetons Francais:

Meanwhile here is a recent video report on Eminence at Sauve in the Gard, the only men’s underwear 100% made in France :

Other useful links:

Story: Ken Pottinger

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