Non-PDO halloumi was found in Greece, Germany, Belgium and Hungary, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said on Monday.

Over three months after the full implementation of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for halloumi, Cyprus received complaints about products sold abroad under the name halloumi or helim, which failed to carry the PDO label.

Such products were spotted in Greece, Germany, Belgium, and Hungary.

Kadis told radio Trito these were products that were either not produced in Cyprus or exported from Cyprus and did not carry the PDO label.

The news came less than a week following a report suggesting holidaying Cypriots have been sending photos of imitation halloumi to authorities from England, Hungary, Greece, and Belgium.

On Monday, the minister said the European Union rapid reaction mechanism is mobilised in these cases and the offenders are asked to comply.

He also referred to the case of halloumi produced in Cyprus which met the criteria but did not bear the PDO label. The specific cheese factory was identified, and necessary actions were taken, Kadis said.

The minister highlighted how important it was that since the registration of haloumi, haloumi imitation products had ceased to circulate in the market. There was a grace period for selling non-PDO halloumi under the trademark name which ended on September 19.

Under the PDO, 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, which are expected to 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 producers and dairy farmers.

The agreement reached between cheese makers, farmers and the ministry 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.

Non-PDO halloumi can still be sold under a different name, although the ministry has said there has been very little interest in this.