Feta up with imitations, Europeans start food fight

FILE - This Jan. 13, 2012 file photo shows cups of Chobani Yogurt at Chobani Greek Yogurt in South Edmeston, N.Y. Team USA sponsor Chobani, which is based in upstate New York, says it has 5,000 cups of Greek yogurt sitting in a refrigerated warehouse waiting to be flown to the Olympic village. But Russian authorities say the U.S. Department of Agriculture has refused to provide a certificate that is required for dairy products under its customs rules. A U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman says the agency is working with its Russian counterpart to reach a solution to allow the Chobani shipment to go through despite the lack of agreement on general trade requirements for dairy products.(AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
(AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

Not only were U.S. Olympic athletes unable to enjoy protein-rich Greek yogurt in Sochi, but if the European Union had its way, Americans wouldn’t either — at least not by that name.

The Europeans don’t want American companies, like New York-based Chobani, to be allowed to use the traditional names for cheese and other dairy products that originated in the Old World. That apparently could include “Greek yogurt.”

Want parmesan on your pasta? Go to Italy. Want feta in your salad? Go to Greece. Want cheddar on your burger? Go to England.

If it’s not produced in its native country, then the EU wants it called something else.

Few issues bring the political parties together these days, but if anything could, it would be an international assault on Americans’ obsession with cheese. The average American consumes 23 pounds of the stuff each year, according to a September 2013 report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.


(Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) gathered more than half the Senate on a joint letter to the Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, urging them to stand firm as a new round of trade talks between the U.S. and the EU continue in Brussels this week.

“Can you imagine going into a grocery store and cheddar and provolone are called something else?” Toomey said in a press release.

To be sure, it would be less appealing to reach for the “imitation mozzarella” or “faux feta” at the grocery store.

If this were to happen – the Canadians inked a deal with the EU that new cheese producers won’t use the European name on many popular cheeses – Americans are going to have be more innovative (think sparkling wine as a substitute for champagne).

We invite you, Loop fans, to offer your suggestions for new names.

And as far as Greek yogurt goes, we’re sure the Turks would gladly lend their name. Turkish yogurt, anyone?

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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Colby Itkowitz · March 12