Greeks call for country origin information on dairy products

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dairy products, Milk, Cheese, Greece

Dairy manufacturers could have to provide more information about the origin of ingredients on dairy products if a Greek proposal is adopted Europe-wide.

A standing committee on the food chain and animal health discussed the idea at a meeting last week following a notification (Directive 2000/13/EC) by Greece of a draft decree on the labelling of dairy products.

Origins labelled

The Greek delegation said the aim of the draft measure is to protect the consumer from misleading practices as to the true origin of milk used to make dairy products, but at standing committee last week the proposals got a mixed reception.

The draft measure presented by Greece required that certain dairy products made in Greece indicate the origin of the raw material (milk) used on the sealed packaging. It also set out details regarding the minimum requirements for such information.

Where the products come from abroad, the draft measure stated that the sealed packaging must at least display information on the specific country of production. It also laid down rules on how all this information on origins should be presented.

Committee views

Discussing the proposals last week, most of the member states present at the committee meeting said the issue of origins would be better addressed as part of the Commission proposal for a Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers. This, they said, would ensure a common approach at EU level.

The majority view, according to the minutes of the meeting, was that the issue of dairy product labelling should be discussed in the context of the revision of the EU labelling legislation.

Some delegates disagreed with the approach envisaged by the Greeks, objecting that labelling requirements would inhibit the free movement of goods.

The Commission will express an opinion regarding this notification by 2 September 2009, taking into consideration the exchange of views.

Feta cheese debate

Disputes have already arisen in the EU involving Greece and the labelling of dairy products. The use of the term ‘feta’ has been met with controversy and led to heated debate regarding the importance of the country of origin.

Only milk from sheep and goats in Greece can be used to make feta cheese, under an EU ruling passed in 2005. But other European countries that produce feta-like cheese have complained unsuccessfully to use the feta name for cheese made outside Greece from different types of milk.

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