A display of Australia's 'Coon' branded cheese in a store's refrigerated section.
(Photo by Brendan Beirne/Shutterstock.)

An Australian Food Company is Finally Renaming Its Racially Offensive Cheese Brand

(CNN) — An Australian dairy company is rebranding a controversial line of cheese products that share a name with a racial slur, in an attempt to “eliminate racism” from its brand.

“Coon” cheese — which has been sold in Australia for more than 80 years — has been the focus of complaints for decades. The company has insisted that the brand name paid homage to American cheesemaker Edward William Coon, who, according to its website, “patented a unique ripening process.” But the word is also a deeply insulting racial slur directed at people of color.

Saputo Dairy Australia said in a statement released on Friday that it would rename the cheese following a “careful and diligent review” of the situation.

“At Saputo, one of our basic principles as an organization is to treat people with respect and without discrimination and we will not condone behaviour that goes against this,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

“After thorough consideration, Saputo has decided to retire the Coon brand name. We are working to develop a new brand name that will honour the brand-affinity felt by our valued consumers while aligning with current attitudes and perspectives,” the company said. “We believe we all share in the responsibility to eliminate racism in all its forms and we feel this is an important step we must take to uphold this commitment,” it added.

The change comes after more than two decades of campaigning by Indigenous activist Stephen Hagan, CNN affiliate 9News reported.

Indigenous people, who make up 2% of Australia’s population, suffered for decades from legalized discrimination and abuse. They still face severe discrepancies in terms of health, education and employment compared with white Australians.

Several other food brands, such as Quaker Oats’ Aunt Jemima and Mars-owned Uncle Ben’s, have this year confirmed they will change product names or branding that is now widely considered racially offensive.

And in June, Nestlé announced it would be rebranding its Red Skins and Chicos sweets, also sold in Australia, saying that their controversial names were out of step with the company’s values.

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