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EU is cheesed off with Denmark

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EU is cheesed off with Denmark

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Danish dairy firms allegedly broke EU law by selling cheese marked as "feta" — when technically, it was not.

The European Commission has reportedly submitted a formal request to the Danish government to stop the practice of selling the cheese to countries outside the European Single Market, said Danish news website Altinget.

What has the Commission said?

That cheese marked as "feta" is being illegally sold by Denmark to non-EU countries.

"The registered, protected designation of origin 'feta' is being used illegally in Denmark, where certain companies, which produce or import white cheese are exporting it to third countries misleadingly marked as 'feta'," the Commission reportedly said in a statement.

Euronews has contacted the relevant department of the Commission for confirmation.

What has the Danish government said?

A spokesman told Euronews they do not comment on formal requests from the EU Commission.

"We are surprised," said Denmark's dairy producers 

A spokesperson for Denmark's dairy producers said it is likely a misunderstanding.

"Since feta became protected as a Greek product, we have complied with the relevant laws. But we have naturally acted differently in areas where it is not protected," said the Danish Dairy Association CEO Jørgen Hald Christensen. 

The DDA (Mejeriforeningen) represents large producers like Arla and Nordex Foods.

Speaking to Euronews, Christensen said: "We have not seen the letter between the EU Commission and the Danish government. We do not know what it is behind it."

"Feta is protected by the EU and in countries with trade agreements that cover this. But in other parts of the world this is not so."

"We have no information about any companies that have breached the rules. We are surprised to hear about the letter."

Feta - the big cheese

Feta was added to the EU's list of protected food products in 2002 after a drawn-out conflict between Denmark and Greece, which was confirmed by a judgment in 2005. 

Since then, dairies outside Greece have been barred from selling cheese marked as "feta" within the European Single Market area.

It is the same legislation that restricts the name 'champagne' to sparkling wine produced in the French region of Champagne and Parma ham to the region of Italy.

Protected products must also not be sold using protected names to countries with trade agreements with the EU.