A Yorkshire cheesemaker has been told that it will have to re-brand its feta cheese by 2007, following a European court decision that only Greek manufacturers may use the name “feta”.
The ruling marks the end of a long-running battle between the Greeks and other member states, including the UK, Denmark, Germany and France.
The Greeks have long-argued that feta should be awarded “protected designation of origin” status, to reflect the fact that it is a traditional cheese, relying on the Greek environment to give it its special taste.
This PDO status was granted by the EU Commission in 2002, but was subsequently challenged by member states who claimed that feta was a generic term, since it has been produced outside Greece for many years.
This week the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg threw out that claim.
It pointed out that, even though white cheese soaked in brine has been produced in other countries for some time, often they are under names other than feta.
More importantly, Greece still accounts for 85% of the market for feta cheese. It could not, therefore, be considered a generic.
The ruling has angered Yorkshire cheesemaker Shepherd’s Purse, which has been producing its “Yorkshire Feta” since 1987.
The cheese has become its second best selling line.
“Changing the brand is going to be a costly business for us,” said company founder Judy Bell.
“I can’t help feeling that the ruling is simply pandering to the whims of one of the newer members of the EU.
I don’t believe Greece will be able to meet world demand for feta on its own.”
Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who represents North Yorkshire in Strasbourg, has written to Prime Minister Tony Blair urging him to take a lead in changing the law.