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Greece Considers Appeal to European Court Over Feta Cheese Imitations

Greek feta cheese
Feta cheese on a Greek “Horiatiki” salad. Credit: Zone 41/Wikimedia Commons/ CC-BY-2.0

Greek authorities are considering appealing to the European Court after two cases of feta cheese imitation emerged, Kathimerini daily reports.

The Greek newspaper says the unlicensed use of the name of Greece’s most popular cheese comes from the trademark “Athenos Feta” which has been registered in Chile.

The second case relates to “Valbreso Feta,” a French imitation produced by dairy giant Lactalis in Wisconsin in the USA.

The new cases of illegal imitation became known to the local authorities just 10 days ago and, as a first step, Greece is expected to submit an objection to Chile’s Intellectual Property Organization.

There is a bilateral agreement between the European Union and the Latin American country based on which feta cheese is protected as a geographical indication.

Feta cheese a Protected Designation of Origin product

In 2022, in a legal victory for Greece, the Court of Justice of the European Union decided that Denmark violated EU law by allowing Danish companies to sell cheese called “feta” outside of the EU.

Feta cheese has been considered a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product for twenty years. This official designation means that Feta is a protected product that can only be made in Greece, and cheeses that were not made in the country according to specific guidelines cannot be labeled “feta” by other EU countries.

The case against Denmark was brought to the court by the European Commission, which was backed by Greece and Cyprus.

Denmark admitted that their cheeses were labeled as feta, but argued that selling the products to countries outside of the EU did not violate the law, as it did not mention exports. However, the EU’s highest court found that exports are also included in PDO laws.

Feta an iconic Greek cheese

Feta is a crumbly, soft white cheese with a tangy flavor. It is created by placing the curdled milk mixture into wooden barrels. The curdled mixture is very compact and must be sliced in order to fit into the barrels. The name feta, Greek for “slice,” most likely comes from this practice.

After sitting in the barrels for a few days, the cheese curds are placed in brine, a salty water solution, which is essential in creating the cheese’s iconic flavor.

Feta is used in many Greek dishes, but most notably in the Greek salad, or horiatiki, and baked goods such as spanakopita and tiropita.

Cheese-making is an ancient practice in the Mediterranean, with the production of cheese from goat’s or sheep’s milk dating back to the 8th century BC in Greece.

A cheese resembling feta is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. In this ancient literary work, the Cyclops Polyphemus is described as a shepherd who lives with a cave full of cheese and milk taken from his flock.


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