Fears that producers elsewhere in the UK could start making Melton’s iconic pork pies and Stilton as soon as Brexit happens on Saturday have been dispelled by the government.
Villagers in the Cambridgshire village of Stilton have resurrected a desire to make the cheese because they argue that it originated there in the 18th century.
But the distinctive blue cheese enjoys EU Product Designation of Origin (PGI) status which means it can only be made to a certain recipe in an area around Melton.
There is also PGI protection for Melton pork pies and there has been concern about this being lost when the UK leaves the EU this week.
The matter was raised in the House of Commons on Monday by Rutland and Melton MP, Alicia Kearns, who called for an urgent government debate on the issue.
But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed to the Melton Times that PGI protection would continue until December 31 this year as the nation goes through a ‘transition period’ after Brexit.
A spokesman said: “New UK PGI schemes will be launched to replace the EU schemes at the end of the transition period. These will consist of separate schemes for agri-food products, spirits, wines, and aromatised wines.
“All UK PGIs registered under the EU schemes on the last day of the implementation period will continue to be protected in the EU after the transition period has ended.”
Members of the UK Protected Food Names Association lobbied the government and MPs to retain protection for Melton’s pies and cheese and other geographically-protected foods such as Cornish pasties, Arbroath smokies and Cumberland sausages.
The association chairman, Matthew O’Callaghan, said it was vital that protected status was retained for the 80-plus products which have it as they are worth around £6billion to the UK economy and account for roughly a quarter of our total food and drink exports.
Mr O’Callaghan said: “Unless the Europeans introduce new legislation, which is unlikely, our Protected Food Names will continue to enjoy legal protection within the EU post-Brexit as they are already registered there.
“When the EU and Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced their withdrawal agreement both sides mentioned the continued protection of our iconic foods into the future.
“In the case of Melton Pork Pies, copying outside the UK has never really been a major issue and for Stilton cheese, this is also additionally protected in the EU, the US and elsewhere by an extensive network of Trade Marks.”