Why Australian producers may be banned from selling 'feta cheese'

Some Australian food and drink products including feta cheese would need to be re-named under strict changes proposed by the European Union under a new free trade deal.

But Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has vowed to drive a "very hard bargain" with the EU, which is pursuing the product name issue in its negotiations with the federal government.

The EU wants protections for food and drink brands in its region, and if it's successful Australian feta-makers could be forced to refer to their cheese as "Australian feta".

Feta cheese is synonymous with Greece and has a rich history dating back hundreds of years.

Its production using sheep and goats milk which has been relatively unchanged since cheese making in the country began thousands of years ago, with the cheese a protected designation of origin (PDO) product in the European Union since 2002.

Senator Birmingham has released a list of 172 foods and 236 spirits that would become exclusive to European producers.

Australian feta producers would need to change the cheese's name as part of the new agreement if the deal gets the green light. Source: Getty

Scotch whisky also set to undergo a name change

Local spirits producers would also need to avoid using the term "Scotch” whisky.

Scotch beef and Scotch lamb are also on the food list.

Packaging may also need to be changed for some Australian products, such as mozzarella cheese so it doesn't look too similar to European brands.

Senator Birmingham says the coalition government will spend the next three months consulting with the industries likely to be impacted under the proposed changes.

The word Scotch would be dropped from Australian produced Scotch Whiskey also. Source: Getty

“Ultimately, we will only do this deal if overall it is in Australia’s interests to do so,” he told The Australian on Tuesday.

“We want to hear directly from Australian farmers and businesses so that we can fully represent them in our continuing negotiations with the EU."

The EU is Australia’s second-largest trading partner, third-largest export destination and second-largest services export market.

While the Australian dairy industry was preparing for a fight to continue using the names of a series of cheeses, the EU are mostly seeking to protect regional-specific names such as ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ which would allow companies to remain calling their cheese parmesan, the ABC reported.

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