The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » Monthly - January 27, 2011
Polska… tastes good!
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Mountain Cheese
The oscypek cheese from Małopolska province was one of Poland’s first regional products to earn Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status from the European Union.

Oscypek is a smoked cheese made from milk from Polish mountain sheep. It may contain up to 40 percent cow’s milk from the Polish red cow. The cheese has been produced in the Podhale region for more than 600 years. Its first producers were Wallachian shepherds who lived in the area. Later, the production methods were taken over by highlanders living in the Tatra and Beskidy Mountains.

The cheese is shaped into characteristic spindle forms with decorative ornaments. The cheese is only made when the sheep are put out to pasture—from the end of April to October.

The case of the oscypek cheese shows that the registration process is not always smooth and easy. The Polish application for registering the name oscypek as a Protected Designation of Origin was submitted to the European Commission in February 2005. During the six-month period for member states to familiarize themselves with the application, Slovakia objected to the registration. Slovakia argued that registering the name oscypek would be detrimental to its cheese called Slovensky ostiepok. Slovakia had applied to the European Commission for the registration of Slovensky ostiepok as a Protected Designation of Origin.

In May 2007, the European Commission called on the two countries to work out a common position. Poland and Slovakia reached a compromise. They concluded that the names oscypek and Slovensky ostiepok refer to cheeses produced in a different way, although they have a common origin and tradition.

Finally, the registration process for oscypek was successfully completed in February 2008 and the product was entered in the Register of Protected Designations of Origin and Protected Geographical Indications.