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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
European blow for UK cheesemaker
Feta salad
Feta has been churned out in Greece for 6,000 years
The UK's only producer of feta cheese, Shepherd's Purse Cheeses, has been dealt a blow in a European Union (EU) court tussle between cheesemakers.

Denmark and Germany are challenging a European ruling that only Greece can label its cheese feta.

On Tuesday, an EU adviser urged judges to give feta "Protected Designation of Origin" (PDO) status.

North Yorkshire-based Shepherd's Purse has warned that a ruling in Greece's favour will hit the firm hard.

Greek rights?

The European Commission's controversial 2002 ruling gave PDO status to feta cheese made in Greece.

To actually take the word feta out of use throughout Europe is just abysmal
Judy Bell, cheese maker

Under this ruling, Greek firms will have the exclusive use of the feta label from 2007 and other European producers of the cheese will have to find another name to describe their products.

The European Court of Justice's Advocate-General, Ruiz Jarable, has urged judges to reject Denmark and Germany's call to lift PDO protection for feta.

Mr Jarable said feta "meets the requirements of a designation of origin in that it describes a cheese originating from a substantial part of Greece".

Feta, he said, was "inextricably associated with a specific foodstuff: the cheese produced in a large area of Greece, using sheep's milk".

'Yorkshire' feta

The German and Danish governments argue that feta does not relate to a specific geographical area and that their firms have been producing and exporting the cheese for years.

They believe feta is a generic term in the same way that "Yorkshire" pudding is deemed to be - it does not have to be made in Yorkshire in order to use the name.

Denmark is Europe's second-largest producer of feta after Greece - producing about 30,000 tonnes a year - and, ironically, exporting some of its feta products to Greece.

Judy Bell is the founder of Shepherd's Purse Cheese and feta cheese accounts for 15% of the Thirsk-based firm's turnover.

If the ruling is upheld, she faces a massive remerchandising process and reorganisation.

Shepherd's Purse Cheese says its labelling has always made it clear that the feta comes from Yorkshire.

"Give the Greeks their genuine brand, but to actually take the word feta out of use throughout Europe is just abysmal," Ms Bell said.

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25 Jul 03 |  Business

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