Cheese Smells. Deal With It, a German Court Rules
A fight over the foodstuff ended up in court after a neighbor posted signs outside a cheese shop to complain about the stench.
BERLIN — To Wolfgang Hofmann, the owner of a cheese store near Munich, the smell of his product was a sign of craft, taste and tradition.
But to Manuela Kragler, the woman who lived upstairs, it was an inescapable stink of cheese smells, rising through open windows and water pipes, wafting through the electrical outlets and permeating her home. Fed up with the situation, she took her lament to the street, drawing up signs with squiggly lines under a nose to draw attention to the odor. Their dispute, which simmered for more than three years, ended up before a judge after Mr. Hofmann, worried about the effect that the warning signs were having on his business, took his neighbor to court.
On Tuesday, the judge decided that the smell was unavoidable and told Ms. Kragler to end her campaign. “That a shop where large quantities of cheese are stored produces smells is a statement of fact,” the court found. The ruling said that while anyone was allowed to express an opinion on whether that smell is good or bad, posting cautionary signs on or around Mr. Hofmann’s store, as Ms. Kragler did, was not permitted, because it infringed on his ability to run his business. Germany is the European Union’s largest producer of cheese — making 2.2 million tons of it in 2017, more even than France or Italy — and specialty shops like Mr. Hofmann’s carry many different varieties.
The website for Mr. Hofmann’s shop, in the village of Bad Heilbrunn, says that his philosophy is that “Cheese is a living food stuff, it changes in the course of its life, it ripens.”
“For us,” the site adds, “it is very important to make consumers value and recognize the culture of cheese-making as part of our contribution to its continuation.” Ms. Kragler was not convinced. She told the German news agency DPA that she had tried in vain to broker a solution with Mr. Hofmann, and had then turned to the city authorities that had allowed him to move his business into a former grocery store on the ground floor of the building where she lives.
But nothing changed, she told the news agency. So she took matters into her own hands. “I decided to communicate in a nonverbal way that it stinks for those of us who live in the building,” Ms. Kragler said. She posted the signs on the sidewalk outside Mr. Hofmann’s shop and stuck them to the windows. He would scrape them off, only to see them appear again.
The court ruling said that while Ms. Kragler is allowed to “claim that she considers the smell to be stinky and a form of pollution,” she is not allowed to post warning signs about the cheese smells. The ruling is not final and can be challenged by either party.
Mr. Hofmann has begun looking to move his shop, which was founded in 1972 in nearby Bad Tölz and features handmade cheeses that can spend months ripening. But Ms. Kragler’s campaign might have ended up working against her: Mr. Hofmann told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that her signs had made it harder for him to find a new location.
“Now everyone thinks, ‘Oh, God, here comes the cheese shop. Everything is going to stink,’” he said.
Source: The New York Times