INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In late March, a British court ruled that Chobani could not market “Greek yogurt” in the United Kingdom unless the yogurt is actually made in Greece.

It’s the latest skirmish over product naming, origin and identity that has the U.S. dairy industry embroiled on several fronts.

It’s not surprising that the Chobani decision would occur in a European Union (EU) nation. The EU is mounting an offensive to restrict U.S. exports of feta, mozzarella, parmesan, Romano and cheddar cheese due to “geographical indications.”  

Basically, it’s saying Romano cheese can only come from Italy, feta cheese from Greece, and so on.  

“Historical origins in Europe should not give Europe the right to monopolize these common names,” Errico Auricchio, a Wisconsin cheese-maker, told those attending the National Dairy Producers Conference in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

Yet, that is exactly what the EU is trying to do through trade agreements.

“We are at the critical stage of battling against the EU efforts,” Auricchio said.

Auricchio said the Consortium for Common Food Names has been created to keep export markets open for feta, parmesan, Romano, cheddar and other types of cheese made in the U.S.

It’s a potentially huge issue for cheese plants that rely on the export market.  

Another issue that came up at Tuesday’s meeting had to do with non-dairy imitation products, such as soy milk and soy yogurt.

This has been a perennial problem for the National Milk Producers Federation, as it seeks to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to crack down on milk imitators. Read more.

According to Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, milk is the lacteal secretion that comes from one or more healthy cows. Soy milk and other plant-based imitators don’t meet that definition.

“It is disappointing that FDA is not enforcing the labeling requirements that are in the standards of identity for milk,” said Joe Duscher, chief operating officer for Upstate Niagara Cooperative in Buffalo, N.Y.

The dairy industry is countering with the Real Seal campaign designed to inform consumers which products are made from real U.S.-produced cow’s milk.

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