We’re all familiar with the popular and delicious crumbly cheese that is feta, but up until now not much was known about its make, or ‘DNA’ as it is being referred to by researchers.

Using a groundbreaking method, researchers at the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens (BRFAA) announced on Wednesday that they have managed to decode the ‘DNA’ of authentic feta cheese produced in Greece.

Dr George Tsangaris and Dr Athanasios Anagnostopoulos analysed different varieties of feta classified as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) – a label used since 2002 to identify authentic feta from Greece – and were able to identify its nutritional properties and value.

Not only is the cheese delicious, it is also very good for you, helping to strengthen the immune system.

Results revealed that all varieties of PDO feta have 489 different types of protein – each of which make up the identity of the original Greek feta cheese.

These proteins are known for their antimicrobial activity, while a number of the proteins were also found to be related to vitamins and oligoelements (minerals) that benefit the nervous system, help to maintain good kidney function, regulate arterial pressure and reduce cholesterol.

The research has highlighted feta to be one of the most protein-rich cheeses in the world.

Meanwhile, aside from proving the cheese’s nutritional value, researchers can now also determine the quality of the milk used during production and any instances of adulteration to the product.

This greater understanding of feta’s molecular make-up means that researchers can now officially distinguish between PDO feta and other varieties of the cheese.

The method used was only recently developed by the BRFAA Proteomics Facility. Using a high resolution mass spectrometer, scientists are able to qualitatively and quantitatively determine all the molecules contained in both solid and liquid forms of food, as well as food supplements revealing the trophometric trace of each product.

The BRFAA Proteomics Facility is the first unit in the Balkans and in northeast Europe to apply molecular traceability.