UK encourages food producers to embrace regional distinctions

July 13, 2005, as reported by The United Kingdom has mounted a campaign to add more of its own regionally distinct foods to the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) lists. Backers of the proposal hope the titles will add credibility and perceived quality to the UK’s traditional foods before visitors start flooding the region for the 2012 Olympics.

"We should celebrate and champion our regional food in the same way that France, Italy and other European countries recognized and protect their distinctive products and produce," said Mark Hudson, of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president.

Once on the list only foods meeting the regional criteria can use the region to market their product. For example under the EU law sparkling wine can only be labeled champagne if its grapes were grown and the wine produced in the Champagne region of France. Many European countries have already taken advantage of the lists’ marketing advantages, listing a whole variety of products including, wines, cheeses, hams, sausages, olives, beers and even regional breads, fruits and vegetables.

To kick start the campaign, member of parliament Alan Duncan, whose constituency includes Melton Mowbray, home of the renowned Melton Mowbary Pork Pie, has tabled a parliamentary motion calling on the government to actively engage with the food industry to raise awareness of this opportunity to protect regionally distinctive food and to promote regionally distinctive British food in Europe. Already, MPs from all parties have signed the motion to indicate their support.

“The UK has some of the finest quality food in the world but we need to be much smarter about safeguarding the names of these foods and in promoting them to UK consumers, visitors to this country and to the rest of Europe,” said Hudson. “Not enough food producers are aware that they can apply to have the name of their wonderful sausages, smoked fish or traditional cakes secured in this way – helping them to get across to the consumer just what it is that makes their product great.”

There is a potential downside to the strict definitions included with a PDO or PGI listing. Just ask Britain’s own, “Newcastle Brown Ale” which applied and received a PGI distinction restricting brewing of the beer to the city of Newcastle. However, in 2004, when the Brewery announced it would be closing the Tyne Brewery and moving the operation across the river to Gateshead it got a rude PGI wake-up call—either get the PGI status revoked, change the name, or stay put.

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