The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) denounced a United Kingdom (UK) appeal court’s ruling issued this week that declared 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 (Chobani).
The European Union (EU) maintains a list of geographical indications (GIs). This list is intended to provide some level of clarity as to which regional terms are restricted for usage by only certain countries. However, "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 ruling seeks to further broaden the already far-too-expansive scope of what European courts and officials are declaring to be off-limits for all but a select group of producers in one region of the world,” declared Jaime Castaneda, CCFN Executive Director. “This restriction, on a term that is not even a registered GI, indicates the continual creep of limitations on common food names and the upheaval this can cause in international trade.”
Castaneda went on to say that, “This is why CCFN is focused on calling for common sense to prevail as it relates to the use of common food names. Following the logic employed by this European court, CCFN wonders if the Europeans will next be crusading to limit the use of a host of other products that use a country’s name such as ‘French fries,’ ‘English breakfast tea,’ ‘Italian dressing,’ ‘Belgian waffles’ or ‘Danishes’ if the products are not produced in their name-sake countries.”
Castaneda made clear the stakes that findings like this could hold for a variety of companies. “This is not just about one company and its use of ‘Greek Yogurt’ as a term that describes yogurt made using a straining process. This is about drawing reasonable lines around the use of words that have come to describe a type of product rather than to identify the item as having been made in one particular region of the world,” he said.
This action comes on the heels of steps taken just last week by the European Commission to allow the advancement of a GI application that would grant to Denmark the exclusive use of “Havarti,” a cheese with an active international product standard and global production. The impact of that application would similarly restrict the use of a common name used by multiple countries to describe a type of product and award it solely to producers in just one nation.