ATHENS – The European Union’s Court of Justice issued a reprimand to Denmark for allowing companies to sell white cheese under the name Feta in a ruling declaring it’s a protected Greek product and ordered a stop to the practice.
Greece claims Feta as part of its cultural heritage because it has made the sheep and goat milk cheese for 6,000 years although other countries make and sell their own, including an American version that is dry and almost tasteless.
“By failing to stop the use of the designation ‘Feta’ for cheese intended for export to third countries, Denmark has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law,” judges said, reported Reuters.
In the case brought by the European Commission and backed by Cyprus, Denmark had argued that an export ban could be seen as an obstacle to trade but the court said the designation included exports.
Feta has been designated a traditional Greek product by the EU executive since 2002, giving it legal protection in the 27-country bloc. The CJEU had in 2005 endorsed the label.
For Greece, Feta is a source of national pride, with more than 120,000 tons being produced annually but largely failing to be marketed or exported, allowing other products to take advantage.
In March – three years after the European Union Commission sued Denmark to stop using the name Feta – an advisor to the EU’s top court agreed it was a violation but could do nothing about it.
Denmark breached the law by letting companies make and export a white cheese labeled as feta, said Advocate General Tamara Capeta at the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU.)
Feta has been a registered Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) since 2002 in the EU and can only be produced in Greece according to a set of production specifications but Denmark has been doing it for years, ignoring the edict then.
Greece says feta is its cultural heritage because it has made the sheep and goat milk cheese for 6,000 years and had struggled to get brand name protection for one of its most valued products against imitators of fake feta.
“By failing to stop the use by Danish producers of the registered name ‘Feta’ for cheese intended for export to third countries, Denmark has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law,” Capeta said, reported the news agency Reuters.
“The main idea behind that regulation is the improvement of the situation of EU agricultural producers through providing intellectual property protection to products involving traditional ways of production,” Capeta said, letting Denmark keep selling fake feta until the new ruling.