Denmark sues EU over feta

COPENHAGEN (AP) – Denmark yesterday sued the EU’s Commission for giving Greece exclusive rights to produce feta cheese, calling the product a generic foodstuff, not a regional delicacy. «The government doesn’t believe that feta is a generic name of origin but a generic name of goods, which cannot be protected,» Denmark’s Food Minister Mariann Fischer Boel said. The Commission’s ruling could create «new barriers with the EU’s free-trade principles,» she said. Greece has tried since 1989 to have the EU ban other nations from using the label, saying the cheese has been made there since ancient times. In October, the EU’s head office added feta to a list of hundreds of gourmet products given «designation of origin» protection. That means they can only be produced in a given area, using traditional methods. At the same time, feta producers in Denmark, France and Germany were given five years to find another name for their product or cease production. Denmark was victorious in a 1999 EU court hearing against Greece getting exclusive rights to the feta name. But by introducing new legislation this year, the Commission was able to sidestep the court decision. According to EU guidelines, feta cheese can only be produced in certain parts of Greece and with strict product specifications. Greece has claimed feta should be made only from sheep’s milk, or a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk, from livestock that eat grass and flowers in the rugged Greek countryside. Other EU countries often make it with cow’s milk and then whiten it to avoid the yellow color that results from the aging of cow milk. Denmark exports most of the 30,000 tons of feta it produces annually, bringing in $70,000 in sales to Europe and the Middle East. Greece produces some 115,000 tons, mostly for domestic consumption.

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