A group of Italian cheesemakers are taking legal action against US soap opera The Bold And The Beautiful after one the actors made disparaging remarks about their product. Manufacturers of Grana Padano were enraged about a scene where the cheese was compared in unfavourable terms to its arch rival Parmigiano Reggiano.
In the controversial episode aired in Italy in April, Charlie Webber, a security guard - played by Dick Christie - with a complicated love life, berates himself for having mistakenly purchased a can of Grana instead of its nobler cousin. Stefano Berni, the head of the Grana Padano Protection Consortium said producers were "sad and disappointed" at what he described as a "gratuitous lack of respect" for one of Italy's most famous delicacies.
The consortium said although the comparison with Parmigiano was legitimate, the pained facial expression and "annoying" tone used by Christie was out of place. The two cheeses are very similar but Parmigiano is usually pricier and considered of higher quality due its stricter production process.
"Our worldwide image has been clearly damaged given the global popularity of both the show and Grana Padano," said Berni. He added that some 200,000 cheese moulds a year were sold in the US alone, a market worth about €200m (£153m, $223m).
Focusing on the convoluted ploys surrounding the wealthy Forrester family in Los Angeles, the soap has been running since 1987, with more than 7,000 episodes aired in some 100 countries. A spokeswoman for the consortium said the group had instructed its Italian lawyers to find a suitable US law firm to bring forward a compensation claim.
She added it was too early to quantify the damage in commercial terms but there are plans to donate part of any eventual compensation to charity.