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European Union Raises Concern in Pursuit of Geographical Indications

February 5, 2014

Through its membership in the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), NMPF strongly supports efforts designed to shine a spotlight on European attempts to monopolize use of many common food names. Two particularly egregious actions took place in the past couple weeks that drew fire from CCFN.

The most recent was a United Kingdom (UK) appeal court’s ruling declaring that only yogurt made in Greece could be labeled as “Greek Yogurt.” The ruling was issued in response to a court case brought against a U.S.-based company over its sale in that market of “Greek Yogurt.” The European Union (EU) maintains a list of protected terms known as geographical indications (GIs), but “Greek Yogurt” does not appear on that list of GIs, nor is it currently even under consideration by the EU authorities for registration as a GI. Despite that, the court still found that the U.S. company was not permitted to sell “Greek Yogurt” in the UK market. This is yet another example of the European crusade to limit the use of many common food names that can trace their roots back to a regional linkage. This also builds on a statement last fall by the Greek authorities that they intend to use the U.S.-EU FTA negotiations to impose similar restrictions on U.S. usage of the term “Greek Yogurt.”

The other major development was the EU’s decision two weeks ago to allow Denmark to move forward with an application for a GI that would grant it exclusive use of the name “Havarti” in the EU. The decision is noteworthy because the term not only is used widely around the world, but also because there is a Codex Alimentarius international product standard for Havarti. In the United States alone, Havarti cheese is produced by more than 40 companies in a dozen states.