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Friday, July 25, 2003

Mind Your Label

I really don't know what to make of this one. On the one hand I am very anti-protectionism, and on the other I find some of my favourite products on the list, and why not. Stilton cheese, which is surely one of the seven wonders of the UK (Chrismas Pudding being among the others) is not sufficiently appreciated for the wonder it is here in continental Europe, Roquefort is Roquefort is Roquefort (try it with endives and mayonaise, a traditional Catalan recipe) and Feta is Feta (except in Bulragia where it is known as Sirene) and from here on in the problems only increase:

Food and wine producers round the world would be banned from using 35 of the most famous names to advertise and label their products - including Champagne and Roquefort cheese - under proposals being drawn up by the European Union. EU member states will today meet to try to determine a final list of names, known as geographical indications, and are planning to submit the document to the World Trade Organisation. The preliminary list, a copy of which has been obtained by the Financial Times, contains what the EU says are the most valuable and most widely copied products, such as the wines and spirits Bordeaux, Cognac, Porto and Sherry; and Gorgonzola, Parmesan, and Stilton cheeses. It could force thousands of producers to relinquish brands and trademarks. The EU has already urged the WTO to adopt measures to increase protection for the names, but the list represents the first attempt to win "absolute" protection for its most cherished brands. The latest move is likely to infuriate some of Europe's biggest trading partners, including the US and Australia, which have long argued that the EU's carefully co-ordinated drive to win better protection for its regional food manufacturers is trade-distorting and anti-competitive. Pascal Lamy, EU trade commissioner, is determined to push the issue on to the agenda of the Doha world trade round, and will press for the list to be adopted at a WTO summit in September.
Source: Financial Times

However idly googling and looking for the Bulgarian name for Feta I came across the the piece below, which shows what a minefield all this is. It strikes me that these regulations are a bit like patents, those who arrive in the global market first plant a flag and then ring-fence, leaving less space for those who would follow. Australian Chardonnay and Bulgarian and Chilean Cabernet Sauvignan are widely appreciated, as is a local product here in Catalonia, cava, which is only allowed to claim that it is produced with the Champagne method.

“...Feta cheese is considered ( also ) Bulgarian product and what you call "Greek salad" is known in West Europe as "Macedonian salad" and in Bulgaria "Russian salad". The Greek feta is made of cow milk and is definitely inferior to the Bulgarian sheep milk feta. Give it a try !”

Hi James: I just read your article on feta. Just to clarify a few things, I would like to mention that feta is produced in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. They are the best known of all. Some claim the best to be Bulgarian but it is debatable and a matter of personal opinion. However, France and Denmark also produce feta. They are processed and packaged. Obviosuly they lack a semblance to the original product. The origins of feta are also unclear, while some claim it to be Greek others place the origin in Macedonia which partially is in Greece and now independent.
Regards H berberoglu

To those who have commented about the initial email, please note that the writer does NOT claim that Feta did not originate in Greece. He is making claims about how Feta is viewed in some other countries, and what is commonly known as ’Greek Salad’ is called in those countries. These statements may or not be accurate. He DOES claim that Bulgarian sheep’s milk Feta is superior to commercially made cow’s milk Greek Feta. He does not (as he should have) compare sheep’s milk Feta from both countries.

If you wish to contribute anything to this discussion, please do not send emails berating the writer for saying Feta Cheese is not Greek HE DID NOT SAY THAT. Cheeses like Roquefort and Stilton are regulated as to production methods, location, etc. and who can use the name. Feta cheese production is not governed by similar regulations. Today, Feta cheese is made in many parts of the world. If anyone would like to send me sheep’s milk Feta from Greece and sheep’s milk Feta from Bulgaria, I would be more than happy and delighted to hold a cheese tasting with several chef’s here in Key West to give our opinion.
Source: Food Reference Website

Please feel free to send your candidates for long-neglected products which deserve wider recognition in Brussels and elsewhere.

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