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Greeks fight for their feta

- by Archimedes

Greece means to stop foreign 'feta' imports.

Greeks love their fine feta cheese and its growing use in dishes across the world has given a major boost to Greek producers. Food lovers can also look forward to eating the genuine 'feta' cheese with their taverna meals when they book their annual holidays to the Greek islands. It is now so important to Greece that the country fought and won a "designation of origin" status in the European Union.

But a war of words has broken out over Canadian plans to import its own white brined 'feta' cheese to Europe as part of a trade deal.

Greece has pledged to use all legal means, including a veto, to stop the foreign 'feta' imports into the European Union.

They have even sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada warning him of the serious consequences of trying to muscle in on the traditional Greek cheese

And the Greek Ministry of Agriculture is "seriously dealing with the issue" which will come before a meeting of European ministers in November.

Secretary general of the Greek Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food, Dimitris Melas, warned: "Greece is ready to use all legal means, including a veto, to prevent the import of white brined cheese called 'feta' from Canada into the European Union."

Feta is a crumbly white brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece. It is most often used in salads and in baking, most notably in the popular filo pastry pies called spanakopita (spinach pie) and tyropita (cheese pie) and is served up in most tavernas in Greece.

Holiday visitors to Greece will often find it sprinkled with aromatic herbs such as oregano and grilled, as part of a sandwich, or included in omelettes.

Feta has been a protected designation of origin product in the European Union since 2002. Only cheese from sheep or goat milk produced by traditional means in Greece can legitimately bear the name 'feta'.

This decision to register 'feta' as a protected designation of origin in Greece was challenged by Denmark, Germany and France who had been producing similar products from cow milk and marketed under the name 'feta' since 1963 but the European Court found in favour of Greece and cheese from other countries was forced to drop the name.

Similar white brined cheeses found on supermarket shelves and are often called 'white cheese' or 'Greek-style' cheese,. They are usually produced outside the EU are often include a proportion of cow milk.

The Greek word 'feta' actually derives from the Italian 'fetta' which translates as 'sliced'. It was adopted by the Greeks in the 17th century over the practice of slicing cheese blocks before placing them in barrels to mature.