Protecting Our Food Heritage
We list our most important buildings to preserve our architectural heritage. Our most important manuscripts are held under controlled conditions in the national archives or in university libraries. Valuable paintings and sculptures are carefully guarded in art galleries and museums. But what of our food heritage, how have we preserved this most common aspect of the country’s daily life?
Unfortunately many of our regional foods have long lost the link with the place that gave them their names, or produced on an industrial scale no longer bear much resemblance to the original recipe and contain ingredients never dreamt of in bygone years. UK law has proved virtually powerless to protect our food heritage with one or two rare examples such as High Court decision to award a Certification Trade Mark to Stilton Cheese in 1967.
European Protected Food Names
On the continent a number of European countries developed systems for protecting local foods and in particular local wines, the most notable of which is the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) of France applied to wines and in 1925 to cheeses, poultry in 1957 and to lavender oil in 1981. In 1993 the European Union introduced a Europe wide scheme of Protected Food Names PFN to protect regional foods from imitation across the EU. Three classes of protection are recognised:
TSG – Traditional Speciality Guaranteed
This protects the recipe and ingredients in a product in other words how a product is made and what it is made from. TSG status is open to products which are traditional or have customary names and have a set of features which distinguish them from other similar products. These features must not be due to the geographical area the product is produced in nor entirely based on technical advances in the method of production.
PGI – Protected Geographical Indication
In addition to protecting the recipe and ingredients, how and from what a product is made, PGI says that part of all of the production process must occur within a defined area implied by the name of the product. This is open to products which must be produced or processed or prepared within the geographical area and have a reputation, features or certain qualities attributable to that area.
PDO – Protected Designation of Origin
In addition to the above, protecting recipe and ingredients, PDO says that the product must be wholly made or processed in the area and from ingredients that also originate in the area. This is open to products which are produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area, and with features and characteristics which must be due to the geographical area.
Currently the UK has 44 Protected Food Names. This places the UK in seventh rank behind Italy 228, France 183, Spain 149, Portugal 116, Greece 90 and Germany 77. (Technically on the same basis as the other countries cited the UK has 37 products as some of the UK products are for varieties eg Stilton Blue and White, Swaledale and Swaledale ewe’s cheese and the cider and perrys from Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire). In terms of value however, the UK ranks 4th with PFN sales worth roughly over £1billion, much of which is due to Scotch and Welsh Beef and Lamb.
UK Protected Food Names
Traditional Cumberland Sausage, Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, Cornish Pasty, Cornish Sardines, Traditional Grimsby Smoked Fish, Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, Scottish Farmed Salmon, Isle of Man Manx Loaghtan Lamb , Staffordshire Cheese, Scotch Lamb , Scotch Beef , Arbroath Smokies, Welsh lamb, Welsh Beef, Traditional Farmfresh Turkey , Exmoor Blue Cheese, Dorset Blue Cheese, Cornish Clotted Cream, Teviotdale Cheese, Whitstable oysters, Shetland Lamb, Jersey Royal potatoes , Orkney beef, Orkney lamb, White Stilton cheese ; Blue Stilton cheese, West Country farmhouse Cheddar cheese, Beacon Fell traditional Lancashire cheese, Single Gloucester, Swaledale cheese ; Swaledale ewes´ cheese , Bonchester cheese, Buxton blue, Dovedale cheese, Gloucestershire cider/perry , Worcestershire cider/perry , Herefordshire cider/perry , Kentish ale and Kentish strong ale , Rutland Bitter
A group (or single producer in the case of a ‘revival’) of producers apply for protection of a product having agreed on the application form, the geographical area and proof (except for TSG) of the link of the food to the area. The method of production or processing must be stated which will also include the ingredients. The application is submitted to ADAS which act on behalf of Defra and who gives advice on the application and rules whether the application is valid or not within the rules of the PFN scheme. The application is then forwarded to Defra who after consideration will publish the application for a 6 month consultation. Negotiation takes place then with any potential objectors and if still favourable, Defra will forward the application to the European Commission who will first invite comments from other member states. After a six month period without objection, the application will be published as approved in the European Journal. The product or point of sale must carry the relevant logo for PDO, PGI and TSG. Applicants must arrange inspection of their premises and method of production once a year from a recognised inspector. The scheme is monitored by the Trading Standards who will pursue any breaches.