The international profile of Melton Mowbray pork pies was given a major boost over the weekend when Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned them at the G7 summit in France.
But his comments about exports of the pork pies and the potential of them being boosted following a post-Brexit free trade deal with the United States back-fired on him when he was challenged on their accuracy by the organisation which represents the producers.
On Sunday Mr Johnson said at the Biarritz summit, which is attended by world leaders, that Melton pies were sold in Thailand and Iceland but couldn’t currently be exported to the US because of restrictions, which could possibly be lifted by a new trade agreement.
But Matthew O’Callaghan, chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, travelled from his Melton home yesterday to appear as a guest on Radio 4’s Today programme, where he pointed out that the pies were not currently being exported to those countries and he insisted that any future exports to the USA should only be made with a built-in protection there for the authentic Melton recipe.
Mr O’Callaghan told the Melton Times: “The media attention surrounding the Prime Minister’s comments and our pies has been extraordinary.
“I suppose it must be the combination of silly season, hot bank holiday Monday and the irresistible headline of Boris and Porkies.
“The story has run nationally, internationally, from Canada to Hong Kong, and in many of the regional papers.
“Around half-a-million people have watched the Twitter clip from my interview with Radio 4’s Today Programme.
“It was a surprise that in the middle of the G7 Summit with all the world issues at stake, like the Amazon burning, China, Iran, Russia and Brexit, up pops the Prime Minister to talk about Melton Mowbray pork pies but good for him and we’re very grateful for him doing so.”
Melton pork pies currently enjoy protected geographical status, as does other produce such as Stilton cheese or Champagne, which the UK remains part of the European Union.
Ministers have been working on a new scheme which will continue to protect these named foods and drinks within this country following Brexit but it would not prevent producers from Europe, America and other parts of the world from making products with the same names but using different, and potentially, inferior recipes, which could affect exports and damage the brands.
Mr O’Callaghan welcomed Mr Johnson’s suggestion that pork pies could be exported to the US under a new trade deal but he voiced concerns that the Americans did not traditionally believe in protecting the geographical status of products.
He added: “Our only concern is that there are already counterfeit Melton Mowbray pork pies’s being made in the US and I would not want us to develop a market merely to benefit US bakers who would have lower costs.
“If the Prime Minister could get a trade deal where the name of Melton Mowbray continues its protected status in the US along with Stilton Cheese, etc, that would be fantastic.
“And while he’s at it, if he could negotiate the continuance of our protection in the EU post-Brexit that would also be great.
“We’re delighted that Boris is backing the Melton Mowbray pork pie – we ought to send him a few and to Donald Trump so that the US President gets to know what he’s missing.”
Following the Today programme, 10 Downing Street said the Prime Minister was correct when he said that Melton pies were exported to Thailand and Iceland and stated that his comments were based on a briefing note from the Department for International Trade, which said the company Walker and Son exports small shipments to Iceland, Thailand, Singapore and the Caribbean.
But Walker and Son - which says it makes and bakes 80 per cent of all of the UK’s Melton pork pies - told the BBC it no longer exported the pies and were ‘entirely focused on the UK market’.