Cheesy win pleases Greeks

Athens welcomed the «historic» decision yesterday by the European court, which ruled in favor of Greece having the exclusive right over the feta name for cheese, a decision which ends a over decade of haggling among EU countries over the food label. Agricultural Development and Food Minister Evangelos Bassiakos described the decision by the EU’s highest court making the salty white cheese a Greek product as a «historic development.» «After many years of battling, the coordinated efforts of the Greek government and Agriculture Ministry… have been crowned with success,» Bassiakos said. The European Court of Justice ruled that the definition of feta was reserved for cheese from Greece as it had been registered as a protected designation of origin by the European Commission in 2002. Germany and Denmark, backed by France and Britain, had challenged the designation of the origin for the cheese in a legal fight that started some 13 years ago. «The court upholds the name feta… for Greece,» the court said in a ruling which cannot be appealed. Explaining its decision, the court recalled a Commission opinion that special breeds of sheep and goats and the fauna in Greece gave Greek feta a specific aroma and flavor. The court added that feta is often packed with labels showing its Mediterranean heritage. The decision, which gives Greece exclusive right over the name as of October 15, 2007, drew expected criticism from the Danish Dairy Board. «This ruling goes against all law. It is scandalous,» said Hans Bender, director at the Danish Dairy Board’s office in Brussels. Industry sources said that the court decision is likely to have limited impact on the sector as Greece already produces about 85 percent of the feta consumed in Europe. Denmark exports most of the 30,000 tons of feta that it produces each year. Greece annually comes out with some 115,000 tons of the cheese, mostly for domestic consumption.