MS Iceland Dairies will no longer be selling cheese branded as ‘feta,’ following a complaint made to the European Parliament by Greek MP Emmanouil Fragkos, RÚV reports. Greece holds protected designation of origin (PDO) rights to feta, meaning that it is the only country in Europe that can claim to sell this product.
In April, Emmanouil Fragkos made a formal request to the European Parliament that MS Dairies stop branding various cheese products as feta. He noted that feta is a specific, local Greek speciality; to carry the name feta, a cheese must be made from Greek goat or sheep’s milk, grazing along Greek rivers, and that there are already various regulations in place that dictate that similar kinds of cheese produced elsewhere cannot be called ‘feta.’ (Vermouth, champagne, stilton cheese, and prosciutto di Parma are all examples of famous beverages and foodstuffs that have PDO protection.)
PDO is one of the EU’s “quality schemes,” which aim “at protecting the names of specific products to promote their unique characteristics, linked to their geographical origin as well as traditional know-how,” explains the European Commission website. “Recognised as intellectual property, geographical indications play an increasingly important role in trade negotiations between the EU and other countries.” Iceland is not a member of the EU, but it is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), which means that it is subject to “the laws of the single market (except for agriculture and fisheries laws).” Indeed, Iceland entered into an agreement with the European Union regarding PDO protections on May 1, 2016, and the European Commission recognized this when responding to Fragkos’ complaint.
MS Dairies sells numerous products branded as feta, including whole blocks of crumbly, white cheese and oil-marinated jars of salty white cheese curds, all of which resemble the Greek speciality. (MS Dairies also sells ‘Greek yoghurt’ but this wasn’t a subject of the official complaint.)
Communications director Sunna Gunnars Marteinsdóttir says that MS intends to change the names of its products promptly. In lieu of feta, the names ‘salatostur’ (‘salad cheese’) and ‘veisluostur’ (‘party/feast cheese’) will be used.