Holes in Cheese Market

Holes in Cheese Market

Photo: https://blog.metro.ua/

In each Russian store the customer can find cheeses of various brands – Rossiysky, Gollandsky, Poshekhonsky and others. However, experts warn that most often these are just names, and the products themselves are often counterfeit. Old cheese recipes must be preserved.

In order to do this, it is necessary to ensure the possibility to produce well-known cheeses at traditional large-scale production facilities, where these brands were made earlier.

Why Stores sell Fake Cheeses

Poshekhonsky Cheese is Russian Gastronomic Brand Name

For many of us, cheese lovers, foreign trips are often inextricably bound up with gastronomic pleasures. Finally, we can enjoy the Italian and French cheeses and bring them home with us. However, there are also unique cheese recipes on the domestic market in Russia that might easily outmatch their European counterparts. For example, the Poshekhonsky cheese. It became popular due to its unusual spicy taste. Production of this cheese began in Poshekhonye, a small township in the Yaroslavl region, known since the 18th century.

Before Peter the Great, there were no cheese-making traditions in Russia. As a rule, people drank fresh milk or made cottage cheese. The so-called “cheese curd” was very popular. It was produced by natural milk coagulation. Czar Peter the Great invited cheese makers from Holland, who began making cheese for the czarist court members and nobility. By the way, many of the Russian cheese recipes are based on the Dutch traditions. For example, in the production of such cheeses as Rossiysky, Kostromskoy, Poshekhonsky and Altaisky.

Later, Nikolai Vereshchagin, the pioneer of Russian cheese making, founded the first cheese-making cooperative association, as well as the first school of butter and cheese making. It was established in the village of Yedimonovo in the Tver governorate, where Vereshchagin's apprentices mastered the secrets of producing the Dutch, Swiss, French and English cheeses. Then Vereshchagin, after a tour of the banks of the Volga, discovered meadows along the Mologa river and its surroundings. As a result, Poshekhonye, as well as the village of Koprino were founded in the Yaroslavl governorate, where Vereshchagin opened his second school and continued developing the cheese making.

At that time, cheese was extremely expensive. In the early 1900s, the Russian sales of cheese and butter on the world markets gave more profit than sales of gold.

When the Rybinsk water reservoir was created on the Volga, the village of Koprino was flooded. The cheese factory moved to another place, and the school of Dutch cheese making was relocated to Uglich, a town in the Yaroslavl region where the All-Russia Research Institute of Butter and Cheese Making was founded. All of Koprino's technologies became the basis for the development of Soviet recipes and techniques of cheese-making. Today, the Uglich Cheese Plant is breathing new life into the traditions of the Russian cheese-making.

Uglich is Capital of Cheese Making in Russia

In the beginning of XX century, there were 85 cheese- and butter-making cooperative associations in Poshehonye. Production of cheese became so profitable that local residents stopped drinking milk and supplied it to butter and cheese dairy factories instead. Later, the Poshekhonye Cheese Making Factory was built there. It started to produce the Poshekhonsky cheese. It is rightfully considered the Russian gastronomic brand. In the 1990s, the cheese plant in Poshekhonye became bankrupt and was closed.

Rossiysky, one more highly popular brand based on an authentic recipe, was invented in the Yaroslavl region. Today, Uglich, with its Uglich Butter and Cheese-Making Factory, is considered the real “cheese capital” in Russia. According to the technology recipes developed at the All-Russia Research Institute of Butter and Cheese Making, based on Vereshchagin’s old recipes, the Uglich cheese-making plant produces domestic natural cheeses, including Uglichsky, Poshekhonsky and Rossiyskiy. Notably, Uglichsky cheese has won gold seven times among the products of 200 dairy enterprises in Russia.

Not Every Cheese is Gold

Over the years of the food embargo imposed in Russia, the volume of cheese production in Russia has increased by more than a third. However, the cheese sold in the Russian supermarkets does not always meet the requirements. Sometimes they are sheer products of adulteration. Back in 2016, Gennady Onishchenko, at present a deputy of the State Duma and then aide to the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and former chief sanitary doctor, noted that there were a lot of counterfeit products in Russia, as well as on the cheese market including the Poshekhonsky cheese “You buy the Poshekhonsky cheese.” But it is not original. It is not a cheese. It will be fair to call it a cheese-like product. Please, buy it cheaper if you want but it's not cheese. This brand name is used illegally but the intruders should be held accountable. However, since we agreed “not to bait the business,” it's not bated.”

In recent years, inspection authorities and laboratories have repeatedly examined cheeses that get on the tables of Russian consumers. Many of them do not meet the requirements. For example, in 2016, the Kachestvo Zhizni [Quality of Life] regional association from Belgorod scrutinized cheeses and sausages. Laboratory tests showed that, in particular, not all indicators on the packaging of the Poshekhonsky cheese made by Milk Group in Karelia in Russia’s northwest met the requirements.

In 2018, Public Control, the St. Petersburg public consumer organization, did a check of a dozen samples of various cheeses purchased in different stores in the city. They did not meet the labeling requirements. By the way, most of the samples were already packaged by the retail chains themselves. So, it was difficult to understand what company produces them. There are also graver violations than incorrect labeling. In some samples, inspectors detected a reduced amount of milk fat. For instance, the Poshekhonsky cheese made at the Baltasi Dairy Plant in Tatarstan could not be called cheese at all because only 5.5% of milk fat instead of 100% was found in it.

In general, experts note that the cheap prices for cheese are suspicious. According to them, this pricing might indicate that the cheese is fake. Dishonest producers often use cheap raw materials, such as milk fat substitute, deceiving consumers. The “cheeses” of this kind can be barely called “cheese-like products.”

In 2018, the Poshekhonsky cheese again failed to pass quality control in the Bryansk region. Experts from the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) found non-dairy fats in the Poshekhonsky cheese, which is made by Brasovskiye Syry Ltd.

In the same period, Rospotrebnadzor also found cheese with plant fats instead of milk ones in stores in Moscow City, as well as the Moscow and Tula regions.

In late 2018, experts carried out a check in the supermarkets in the Komi Republic and established that in fact, most of the presented cheeses are counterfeit. Customers in the republic have been buying fake Gollandsky, Kostromskoy, Rossiysky and Poshekhonsky cheeses. The violations of the fatty-acid balance and non-dairy raw materials, as well as plant components were detected there. These cheeses were produced in a host of places. The Bryansk, Belgorod and Novosibirsk regions, as well as Tatarstan, Kabardino-Balkaria and other parts of the country make cheese products of this kind.

In 2019, the laboratories of Roscontrol tested packaged Poshekhonsky cheese manufactured by the store chains Rovenki, Vkusvill, Magnit, Syrobogatov, Kazhdy Den, and Pervym Delom. First of all, experts noted that these cheeses do not have that traditional taste, which distinguishes the Poshekhonsky cheese. The astringent flavor and its peculiar scent were lost. Moreover, some samples even had a bitter taste. The Poshekhonsky cheese is also very salty, but the necessary percentage of salt was not observed not in all the tested samples.

Some of the Poshekhonsky cheeses contain nitrates. As experts explain, nitrates help cheese age faster. It means that the wrong and accelerated technology was used to distillate the cheese. Meanwhile, the right cheese has to age in due time.

In autumn 2019, the experts of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing in the Ulyanovsk region detected the same violations of technical regulations in the output of the Rossiysky cheese that was sold in local shops. Again, milk fats were replaced by the plant ones. In December 2019, the local producer in the Kirov region packaged the Gollandsky, Poshekhonsky, Rossiysky and other cheeses produced in the Udmurt Republic. The company not only changed the expiry dates, but was actually going to sell cheese made from raw materials of unknown origins.

Authenticity of Cheese Brand Names is Important

Earlier, when the Russian consumers did not know what Roquefort or Parmesan should taste like, these cheeses were perfectly replaced by the Poshekhonsky cheese that was well-loved by many people for its spicy taste. Today, the Poshekhonsky cheese can successfully compete with its foreign analogs but only if it is original. Changed recipes and, especially, adulterated blends cannot be considered as the authentic Poshekhonskiy cheese.

Just 10 years ago, following historical traditions, the Yaroslavl authorities made a conclusion that the name of the legendary cheese should be protected. “It is necessary to make the Poshekhonsky cheese again the trademark of the Yaroslavl region. So, unscrupulous producers should not be able to discredit its brand name,” said Anatoly Lisitsyn, the governor of the Yaroslavl region.

Today, cheese market experts believe that the cheeses produced with the help of authentic technologies and ingredients should be returned to the Russian market. According to experts and manufacturers, the tight measures taken against counterfeiters might be of great help. Consolidation of the status of brand names and old recipes would be helpful, too. It is necessary to relocate the production of well-known cheeses on large production facilities that abide by traditional recipes. Even earlier, during the Soviet era, these cheeses were made there in accordance with all-Union State Standards and technologies.

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