Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis has told CNA that halloumi cheese contains no harmful residues, following concerns expressed in Sweden and has spoken of wrong parameters used in a formula by the European Medicines Agency, which ranks Cyprus together with other countries high in antibiotic use in farm animals.
Large Swedish supermarket representatives which trade in the Cypriot cheese visited Cyprus recently after concerns were expressed in the country on the extensive use of antibiotics in animal food. They met with local producers, visited farms and received assurances over the quality criteria upheld during the production of Cyprus’ traditional cheese.
A few days ago, NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a press release alleging that halloumi may be worse than meat, from a sustainability point of view since it is imported from Cyprus a country which, according to the NGO, is on the top of the list in the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Daily “Cyprus Mail” publishes in its edition today statements by a food expert on Swedish television on the matter.
Halloumi sales in Sweden, a country where vegetarian nutrition is popular, has increased significantly since it can be used as a meat alternative in barbecues and other cooking.
Cheese producers in Cyprus, the relevant authorities and the Agriculture Ministry note that on the basis of continuous quality controls and checks antibiotic residues have never been found in halloumi cheese.
In his statements to CNA, Kadis makes it clear that halloumi contains no residues of antibiotic substances, nor does it contain harmful bacteria or any other substance that would make it unsafe for human consumption.
Referring to the EMA report which presents Cyprus as a country with high concentration of such substances in milk and meat, the Cypriot Minister says that the organization does not take into consideration important parameters which would give Cyprus a much lower ranking.
Among other things, he notes that the antibiotic substances are bought in the areas under the control of the Republic of Cyprus and are then used in the Turkish occupied areas. However, he adds, animals in those areas are not taken into consideration in the EMAs calculations. As a result, it is presented that animals in the government-controlled areas have a higher concentration of antibiotic substances than what is the case in reality.
He adds that the formula does not take into account the hundreds of thousands of goats in Cyprus. The use of antibiotics in these animals is by far lower and if that factor was taken into account results would once more be a lot lower.
At the same time, he points out that the EMA report clearly shows that Cyprus is one of the last positions in the use of critically important antibiotics, which entail the greatest importance for human health and safety. Cyprus, Kadis, is third from last, with a slight presence in the concentration of such substances.
The Agriculture Minister also says that in Cyprus antibiotics are used by 70% in the farming of pigs and poultry and not in the farming of animals which produce milk. The use of antibiotics in such animals is limited to young animals which are not used in milk production, he adds.
“Therefore, the relation of such substances with halloumi is essentially non -existent,” he stresses.
He further says that together with other countries an effort is ongoing to change the methodology of calculating the use of antibiotics, something which was still not possible. However, he notes, the next EMA report which is due to circulate will show a substantial drop in the use of antibiotics in Cyprus.