Denmark fights feta decision

BRUSSELS (AP) – Denmark vowed yesterday to continue its 13-year fight for the right to sell feta, even after the European Union finally gave Greece exclusive rights to the cheese. «We will go to court,» said Hans Arne Christensen, Brussels representative of the Danish Dairy Board. «We have produced this type of cheese for decades.» Greece claims to have made feta since ancient times, and has fought since 1989 for an EU ban on other nations using the label. The EU’s head office added feta to a list of hundreds of gourmet products – from Ardennes ham to Newcastle Brown Ale – given «designation of origin» protection. That means they can only be made in a specific area, using traditional methods. Feta producers in Denmark, France and Germany were given five years to find another name for their product or cease production. Denmark exports most of the 30,000 tons of feta it produces each year, bringing in 500,000 kroner ($63,700) in sales to Europe and the Middle East. Greece makes some 115,000 tons, mostly for home consumption. Christensen says most EU consumers are happy to find Danish feta on their supermarket shelves and would be confused if the Danes had to change the name of their product. The EU Commission was won over by Athens’s argument that the feta should be made only from sheep’s milk, or a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk from animals raised eating grasses and flowers in the rugged Greek countryside. Athens says feta made in other EU countries is often made with cow’s milk and then whitened to avoid the yellow color that results from the aging of cow’s milk. Christensen said he expected a final decision from the European Court of Justice in two or three years.