Cypriots on holiday abroad have been sending in photos of imitation halloumi to authorities following the launch of the traditional cheese as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product last year.
According to a report in Politis on Friday, ten instances have been reported to authorities from people who travelled to England, Hungary, Greece and Belgium. One complaint had been filed by a senior civil servant during a trip to Brussels.
All such cases are referred to a three-member committee at the commerce ministry who oversee controls on foreign markets and can take action against the factories involved with fines of up to €150,000. Legal measures can be taken by the Republic itself if the illegality is repeated.
According to the report, from the checks on the Cypriot retail market there is no longer any non-PDO halloumi being sold, although the customs department did recently seize a batch of halloumi destined for overseas after reasonable suspicion that it was not manufactured to the PDO standard.
All products bearing the name halloumi must be produced according to the product specifications and around 55 cheesemakers have been inspected and certified. Regular spot checks are carried out in shops, and according to Politis, these will be expanded to catering establishments once more staff are hired at the agriculture ministry.
The framework agreement governing the production of PDO halloumi was signed last July after years of wrangling with produces and dairy farmers.
The agreement reached between cheese makers, farmers and the ministry in July set a transitional period during which halloumi would have 10 per cent goat and sheep milk – until January 2023. After that, the specifications will jump to 20 per cent, and thereafter the portioning will increase by five per cent a year – reaching 50 per cent by 2029.