Feta has been a protected designation at European level since 2002 and in 2005 survived a challenge from Denmark and Germany. But Denmark continued to let its producers label their products feta when they exported outside the 27-nation bloc.
That prompted the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to turn, with Greek support, to the court.
“By failing to stop the use of the designation ‘feta’ for cheese intended for export to third countries, Denmark has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law,” the court said in its ruling.
It said Denmark should have stopped use of the designation and ordered it to comply quickly.
If Denmark doesn’t, the Commission can turn to the court again to seek financial damages. The court said, nevertheless, that Denmark had cooperated sincerely over the case.
In addition to being manufactured in Greece, cheese can only be labelled “feta” if it has been made in keeping with the traditional recipe and method.
Greece says feta is part of its heritage because it has been making the cheese, made with both sheep and goat milk, for 6,000 years. Around 120,000 tonnes of feta are produced in Greece each year.