EU Nixes ‘Butter’ From Name of Czech Spread

     (CN) – The Czech Republic can’t use the EU’s intricate foodstuffs rules to justify putting the word “butter” in a dairy spread’s name, the EU’s lower court ruled Tuesday.
     Czech officials and the European Commission have been fighting for years over the designation of pomazankove maslo, a dairy spread similar to butter.
     In 2011, the commission complained that the Czech Republic had allowed pomazankove maslo to be marketed as butter in violation of the EU’s labyrinthine food-labeling rules.
     In order for a product to be considered butter in the EU, it must have a milkfat content of between 80 and 90 percent, a maximum water content of 16 percent, and at most 2 percent dry nonfat milk-material content.
     Pomazankove maslo – literally “spread butter” – falls far short of the EU’s butter standards with 31 percent fat, 42 percent dry milk and 58 percent water. This led the European Court of Justice to decide in 2012 that the Czech Republic had to stop calling the product butter.
     Undeterred, Czech officials lobbied the commission to go on using the name under a scheme that gives an exemption for products recognized as a traditional specialty.
     Apparently finding that pomazankove maslo was either not traditional or not a specialty, EU regulators denied the request, leading to another round in the courts over the dairy spread.
     On Tuesday, the European General Court agreed that pomazankove maslo does not qualify for the traditional-specialty exemption because it is not – and never will be – butter.
     For one thing, the exemption is not meant to trump the EU’s food-labeling laws, the court said – rejecting the Czech Republic’s belief that content requirements don’t apply to products officially recognized as traditional specialties.
     To allow a member state to use the exemption to get around content requirements would lead to unfair competition and consumer confusion about what they’re buying, the court said.
     “The two regulations have objectives in part distinct, and provide different conditions,” the court wrote in its 6-page opinion. “It is reasonable that the general marketing conditions for agricultural products provided in the labeling law should be added the specific and distinct procedure provided by traditional-specialty law, designed to provide consumers with a guarantee that certain agricultural products can legitimately claim to possess characteristics giving them an added value.”
     In anticipation of the court’s ruling, Czech dairies have said they will start calling the product maslova pomazanka, “buttery spread,” or maslovy krem, “buttery cream,” in an effort to dodge the commission’s future wrath.

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