Wed, Dec 17, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Melton Mowbray pie joins ranks of protected EU foods

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Their names have rolled off the tongue for generations — cornish pasty, cumberland sausage and Melton Mowbray pork pie, made in Leicestershire, central England — even as their heritage and identity were “borrowed” by business imitators.

Not for much longer. Early next year, the pork pie will formally win the EU’s legal protection against its name being taken in vain. The pasty and sausage should get their rewards soon. Other local foods are joining the queue, from Craster kipper to Somerset Levels native breed beef.

The Melton Mowbray pie was the first British recipe-prepared product — rather than specialties such as cheese or cream — for which local makers sought protected status, sparking a dispute with a large manufacturer. Opponents of protection argue it is bad for competition and threatens jobs in other parts of the UK.

Britain has been slow to use the EU scheme, despite BSE and foot and mouth felling suspicion of mass production, while regional specialties have won greater recognition.

Only 37 British names are registered, with another 45 in the process of applying. Italy has more than 170 (most famously Parma ham and Gorgonzola), France 160, and Spain and Portugal well over 100, all taking advantage of 1992 regulations putting the law on the side of local food makers. More than 800 food and drink names across the EU are protected.

Irene Bocchetta, of Food from Britain, a consultancy established by the UK government, said: “In Italy, if you are a food producer, you have to become a member of a local food organization. But in this country we are famous for being fiercely independent. There seems to be an inherent mistrust amongst farmers. That can make it difficult in getting them together to approach a scheme that can make them stronger as a group.”

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