Danish illegal ‘feta’ cheese exports face EU probe

Since 2002, feta cheese has been a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product in the EU and its production must meet the requirements of the EU’s designation of origin quality scheme. [Shutterstock]

The European Commission has warned Copenhagen to enforce protection of the protected designation of origin ‘Feta’, following information that Danish companies export the product outside the EU with misleading labelling.

On 25 January, the European Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Denmark regarding the alleged failure of the Danish authorities to adequately fulfil its obligations under the Regulation on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs.

“The Commission is of the opinion that the unlawful use of the registered Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) ‘Feta’ occurs in Denmark, where some companies – which produce or import white cheese – export it to third countries with a misleading ‘Feta’ labelling,” the EU executive said in a statement.

Greeks fear they will lose their ‘white gold’ with CETA

Farmers in Greece are concerned about the fate of feta cheese in EU trade agreements with third countries after the EU failed to fully protect the iconic product in the CETA free trade deal with Canada. EURACTIV Greece reports.

European Commission sources told EURACTIV that the executive and the member states have clear rules regarding the protection of geographical indications.

“The services of the European Commission have been informed that there are Danish companies who produce white cheese in brine from cow milk and export it to third countries after labelling it ‘Feta’,” the sources said.

Asked if these Danish companies exported “feta” products to countries that have already signed a trade deal with the bloc, the sources declined to comment.

“It is not up to the Commission to disclose any further information about the case to protect the rights of the stakeholders concerned.”

Feta cheese is considered the ‘white gold’ of Greece’s economy. The country produces around 120,000 tons of feta every year, while the total domestic production of sheep and goat milk is about 1,100,000 tons.

Since 2002, it has been a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product in the EU and its production must meet the requirements of the EU’s designation of origin quality scheme.

Quality schemes help EU producers break new markets

The promotion of geographical indications (GI) has helped EU products attract new emerging markets which seek quality food. However, Europol warns that fake GI products are on the rise across the EU and policymakers should not disregard the protection of intellectual rights.

Background

Who is driving quality in EU agri-food?

The EU’s Southern member states are the leading producers of foods certified by EU quality schemes: between them, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece account for 70% of the total.