There are calls to rename Coon cheese due to the offensive alternative use of the term.
There are calls to rename Coon cheese due to the offensive alternative use of the term.

Call to rename famous cheese brand

There's a renewed call to rename one of Australia's best-known brands of cheese because of its offensive name.

Comedian Josh Thomas posted an image of Coon cheese on Twitter yesterday with the caption "are we still chill with this?"

In further tweets the writer and star of TV shows including Please Like Me said the word was widely considered to be "hate speech" used to belittle Indigenous Australians.

Removing the Coon name would be a small change, Thomas said, that would "communicate that we see them, understand their pain and respect them".

A number of his followers said they agreed with renaming the historic dairy brand.

"I always feel a bit uncomfortable with this name and if it makes me feel weird then I imagine it must be worse for an Indigenous person. Would it really matter if we changed the name?" said one.

Comedian Josh Thomas received a mixed reaction when he suggested Coon cheese should be renamed.
Comedian Josh Thomas received a mixed reaction when he suggested Coon cheese should be renamed.

However, many of those who responded were adamant removing the brand, which first appeared in Australia in 1935, was unnecessary.

"100 per cent chill. It's a non-issue," said one.

"I feel like you're just stirring the pot now. It was named after the guy who made it. Taking the cheese off the shelf won't stop the racist attitudes that people in this country have. It also won't take back any of the racial history here either," said another

Coon is made by the Australian arm of Canadian dairy firm Saputo which fully bought the brand's owner, the Warrnambool Cheese and Dairy Company, in 2017.

As well as Coon, Saputo also produces Cracker Barrel, Great Ocean Road and Mersey Valley cheese and Sun Gold and Devondale milk.

On its website. Saputo states that the Coon brand was first produced in 1935 in Australia and "recognises the work of an American, Edward William Coon, who patented a unique ripening process that was used to manufacture the original cheese".

Coon cheese was first produced in Australia in 1935. Picture: Peter Ristevski
Coon cheese was first produced in Australia in 1935. Picture: Peter Ristevski

 

Coon has been a supermarket staple for decades.
Coon has been a supermarket staple for decades.

In 1926 Mr Coon, from Philadelphia, was granted a US patent for his process that involved upping humidity levels to enable the cheeses to age and ripen more quickly and to be more flavourful while avoiding "rind rot" which often spoiled cheeses over time.

It was originally brought to Australia by Melburnian Fred Walker, the inventor of Vegemite, who went into the cheese business with Kraft.

The red stripe in the current logo references the red wax Coon cheese was originally wrapped in.

It's not the first time the makers of Coon have been urged to dream up a new name. In 2008, a Queensland academic called on then owner Dairy Farmers to choose a less offensive brand.

 

Thomas wasn't persuaded by those pointing to the brand's history and said the focus should instead be on the name's potential to offend.

"It's amazing the respect people have for the name of a man who invented a processing technique of cheese - who died in 1934. And the disrespect they have for black people," Thomas wrote.

"I honestly wasn't expecting so many of my followers to defend a word that is widely considered hate speech. I honestly thought my followers were anti-racist and compassionate.

"Like, even if you DGAF (sic) about the Aboriginal Australians who have been called this - and the pain the word represents. Surely you can see it makes Australians look silly to the rest of the world?"

A number of Aboriginal Australians, who also commented on Twitter, backed up Thomas' view that the cheese brand should be renamed.

"I'm Indigenous and absolutely hate that word," said one.

Another follower added, "the amount of times I was called that (name) was insane … The word is horrid".

Coon isn't the only product that, years after it was invented, has found its named shared with a slur.

In the UK, consumers can still buy Mr Brain's faggots at their local supermarket. A speciality of the English Midlands, faggots are meatballs made from mince and pork offal and are often served with peas.

The BBC reported in 2018 that British consumers munch their way through "tens of millions" of faggots a year.

Mr Brain's Faggots – pork offal meatballs – remain widely available in the UK despite the name.
Mr Brain's Faggots – pork offal meatballs – remain widely available in the UK despite the name.

 

Riviera's Fags lollies were renamed Fads in the 1990s.
Riviera's Fags lollies were renamed Fads in the 1990s.

It's thought the use of the term as a slur made its way to the UK from the US. However, there has never been a concerted campaign to rename Mr Brain's faggots - it's produced by few if any other firms - despite the degrading alternative usage of the historic name.

The brand's owner said it had to approach Facebook directly in 2013 after the social media site kept deleting its posts due to the contentious name and it claimed users who mentioned the product had had their accounts suspended.

In Australia, Riviera's Fags - a lolly stick shaped originally like a cigarette - was changed to Fads in the 1990s.

But owner Fyna Foods has said that was because of the association with smoking. They were also coloured to look less like smokes and more like chips.

"It's interesting how products evolve over the years as our society does," said the firm.

News.com.au has contacted Saputo Australia for comment.

Originally published as Call to rename famous cheese brand



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