Commission warns Prague about ‘Greek-style’ yoghurt use

The Czech use of 'Greek-style yoghurt' has angered Athens. [siqua/Flickr]

The use of “Greek yoghurt” labeling in a Czech Republic draft bill has angered the Syriza-led Greek government  – which has urged the Commission to intervene.

On 7 April 2015, the Czech Republic notified the European Commission of a draft decree, laying down requirements for milk and dairy products, ice creams and edible fats and oils to the Commission.

A European Commission Spokesperson told that the labeling of “Greek-style yoghurt” was a specific point of this larger and general Czech draft decree.

Already disappointed by the lack of protection for its traditional Feta cheese (Protected Designation of Origin) under the trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA), Athens reacted strongly to the use of “Greek-style yoghurt”, especially by another EU member state.

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Greek Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Evangelos Apostolou recently sent a letter to Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, as well as EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, expressing his disagreement with this specific provision of the Czech Republic decree.

Apostolou stressed that the use of both the name “Greek” yoghurt and “Greek-style” yoghurt was contrary to EU Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers, which provides that food information should not be misled.

“Greek yoghurt is manufactured in Greece according to the relevant long-standing production methods and does not concern a single type of product,” the minister wrote in the letter.

“The term Greek yoghurt, either as a product designation or as a trade item, is misleading and does not reflect the reality because it states a particular country of origin, Greece, to which the product owes its reputation,” he added.

Asked by EURACTIV for a comment, Apostolou said that Athens expected the European Commission to seek solutions on the basis of the EU law, and not facilitate the exploitation of the reputation of Greek products.

“It is no coincidence that many counterfeit manufacturers, even now, use images to link their product with Greece”, the Greek minister said.

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Commission’s view

The EU executive seems to be confirming the Greek argument.

Contacted by EURACTIV, a European Commission spokesperson noted that the product name “Greek yogurt” was not protected by a geographical indication.

“However, it is a fundamental requirement of the Union rules on food information, that food labelling must not mislead consumers as to the characteristics of the food including its identity and origin,” the EU official stressed, adding that a dialogue between the Commission and the Czech authorities concerning the use of the term “Greek yoghurt” is ongoing.

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