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Identifying Genuine Greek Food Products

Is it still Feta if it’s not made in Greece? Should Kalamata olives only come from Kalamata? The European Union seems to think so.
In 1992, a legal framework was introduced known as Protected Geographical Status, which was developed to protect the reputation of regional foods, eliminate unfair competition and stop misleading consumers with non-genuine products that may be of inferior quality and taste different. However, if you do not live in Europe, your feta is most likely not from Greece and your Kalamata olives may be from Italy or Turkey. According to a recent report from McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, Greece holds only 28% of the global “Greek Feta” cheese market, which means that the rest of the 72% is not Greek and not really feta according to E.U. legislation.
Would you mind if a bubbly wine made in Switzerland called itself “champagne” and charged a similar price for it? Most likely you would. The same concept applies to a variety of food products from all over Europe. This is done because the quality and properties are determined by the geographical environment, whose production, processing and preparation takes place within the determined geographical area.
It is important not only from a culinary point of view, but also from a nutritional perspective to taste and use products that have been produced in a specific area. Apart from the Greek olive oils that have protected names, there are a number of Greek products that have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). This means that the product must be traditionally and entirely manufactured within the specific region of Greece, or in Greece generally, in order to have the specific name and to be sold under that name in the European Union.
If you come across these products, buy them and try them:

  • Feta (Cheese made in Greece)
  • Tomataki Santorinis (Tomato from the island of Santorini)
  • Fava Santorinis (Yellow Split Pea from the island of Santorini)
  • Kaseri (Yellow Cheese made in Greece)
  • Krocos Kozanis (Saffron from the area of Kozani)
  • Masticha Chiou (Natural gum from masticha trees from the island of Chios)
  • Fystiki Eginas (Pistachio nuts from the island of Egina)
  • Graviera Kritis (Yellow hard cheese from the island of Crete)
  • Graviera Naxou (Yellow hard cheese from the island of Naxos)
  • Elia Kalamatas (Black meaty olives from the area around Kalamata)
  • Meli Elatis Menalou Vanillia (Honey from the area of Menalon)
  • Throumba Thassou (Οlives that are left to ripen on the tree from the island of Thassos)
  • Throumba Chiou (Οlives that are left to ripen on the tree from the island of Chios)
  • Throumba Ampadias Reyhymnis Kritis (Οlives that are left to ripen on the tree from the island of Crete

For a full list of all the Greek products that have protected names click here.
Elena Paravantes is a Greek-American Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, writer and  founder of a blog about the Greek Diet and Greek Food.
Photo Credit: Olives and Tomatoes by Elena Paravantes

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