Czechs lose the butter battle to the EU
The European Union’s Court of Justice on Thursday banned Czech producers from using a name for a diary product that has been on the market for over thirty years. The court ruled that the popular butter spread or pomazánkové máslo may not have the word butter in its name, since its milk-fat content is lower than the 80% butter must have according to European law.
Yet the EU MP for the Czech Social Democrats Libor Rouček feels that the whole of the European market should be taken into consideration, and from that perspective the Thursday decision of the European court is understandable:
“We have a common market of 500 million customers, so there have to be certain rules, regulations and definitions. So if the rule for butter is that mil-fat content has to be at least 80%, it is clear that you cannot call something butter which has only 30% fat content. So I think the verdict is clear and fair.”
The Czech producers of butter spread will thus have to find other ways of labeling spreadable butter, which has obviously raised some concerns. Milan Teplý, the director of the dairy producer Madeta, was seemingly infuriated not only with the incurred costs due to the change, but overall implications of the European decision:
“I am mindful of the fact that it will cost us a few hundred thousand crowns to get rid of the packaging that was already produced and create a new ingenious name, like ‘cream spread’ or something like that. But this is a very traditional, local specialty for us. And now, all of a sudden, someone from over there in the center of the union gives us orders about if we can call this product ‘pomazánkové máslo’. I have to say, truly pity them.”
But there are other, more practical, concerns about the impact of this ruling. Currently, the content of ‘pomazánkové máslo’ is specifically defined by Czech food regulations, and is considered a separate type of product. Pavel Marek, the head of another large dairy Choceňské mlékárny that produces the butter spread, is concerned that the change may also affect the quality of this traditional delicacy.
“If it will now be placed in the category of spreads, it won’t necessary have to have 31% fat content as it is currently defined in the legislation. It then can be made with less fat, or more or less solids, maybe additives or homogenized water and so on.
Yet, butter spread is not the only Czech product that has fallen victim to the demands of EU-wide regulations. Czech rum and recently also marmalade producers have had to make changes to their labeling, but so far it does not seem to have influenced their popularity on the local market.