Denmark and Greece are fighting over feta – again

Jelisa Castrodale

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The countries of Greece and Denmark are currently furious with each other, and it’s not for political reasons, not because of economic disparity and not even because of the World Cup. (Sorry, Greece). The two European nations are making their maddest faces in each other’s direction because of feta cheese, specifically because dairy farmers and merchants in Denmark won’t stop selling their own cheese as ‘feta.’

The European Commission has just sent a formal request to the government of Denmark, asking the country one more time to stop trying to make feta happen, and to stop selling cheese labeled as feta to countries outside the European Union. “The registered, protected designation of origin 'feta' is being used illegally in Denmark, where certain companies which produce or import white cheese are exporting it to third countries misleadingly marked as 'feta'," the commission wrote, according to The Local.

In 2002, after another unending disagreement between the two countries, feta cheese became a product with a protected designation of origin. That means that to be true feta cheese, it must be sourced from and produced in a specific area of Greece. (Yes, this is the same protection that dictates what kind of sparkling wines may be called champagne). The designation of origin also specifies that feta is a brined cheese made from from sheep’s milk or sheep’s milk combined with up to 30% goat’s milk. And, most importantly, it means that Denmark needs to knock it off with the feta labels.

The white cheese produced in Denmark comes from cow’s milk and, in keeping with the labeling conventions, it is sold at grocery stores in the country as 'salad cubes' or 'white cheese.’ But the Commission believes that some producers are still trying to sell it as real feta in countries outside the EU – an allegation that the Danes deny.

“Since the feta was protected as a Greek product, we have adhered to the laws,” Jørgen Hald Christensen, the chairman of Denmark’s Dairies Association, said. “But of course, we've acted differently in places where it's not protected.” Esben Lunde Larsen, Denmark’s Minister of Environment and Food, said he had received the letter from the European Commission but declined to comment to the Altinget newspaper.

Greece produces 120,000 tons of feta cheese every year, and the dairy product is considered to be the country’s “white gold.” How many tons of feta does Denmark make every year? NONE! Keep up!

Jelisa Castrodale

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