THURSDAY: Melton's proud reputation as the home of Stilton has been challenged after it was confirmed this week that the village of Stilton, near Peterborough, is the birthplace of a Stilton cheese.
The news has now sparked fears of an application being submitted
to amend Stilton's protected designation of origin (PDO) status.
Melton food champion Dr Matthew O'Callaghan believes the move, if
approved, could do enormous harm to the Stilton dairies in Melton borough as well as those in the rest of Leicestershire,
Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Under EU legislation it is illegal to make Stilton outside of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, with all of the licensed dairies understood to be within a 15-mile radius of Melton.
But it is reported that Cambridgeshire historian Richard Landy hopes to
challenge the EU laws now the village of Stilton has officially been recognised as the origin of a Stilton cheese – although only that of a pressed, cooked cream cheese and not the modern blue-veined cheese which originated in and around Melton.
Mr Landy's research discovered a recipe published by Professor Richard Bradley in 1722 for a pressed, cooked cream cheese which was called Stilton and was produced in the village.
He said: "It is nice to have confirmation that Stilton is now the village that created the cheese. It has taken a long time and a lot of research to get this result, but it now means Stilton is firmly on the map, and the cheese map."
Dr O'Callaghan, chairman of the Melton Mowbray Food Partnership, said: "The view here is that although cheese was made in Stilton around the 1700s, the cheese described in Bradley's 1722 recipe was for a hard white cheese and that the blue cheese which we know of as Stilton today was developed in and around Melton. Melton Mowbray is the true home of the famous blue Stilton cheese."
Dr O'Callaghan, on behalf of the food partnership, has already been in contact with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to outline its views and concerns.
He added: "We would oppose any application to amend the Stilton cheese PDO to areas other than those covered by the current specification. Any request by Stilton village to be allowed to make blue Stilton is based on a spurious claim and without any history of cheese making for almost 200 years.
"My fear is that if the PDO was amended to include Stilton then
commercial manufacturers could set up there, claiming to produce an original Stilton from Stilton, which could significantly damage the Stilton cheese industry in and around Melton. It could seriously jeopardise our local economy and local jobs and affect Melton's claim as the Rural Capital of Food."
Nigel White, secretary of the Stilton Cheese Makers Association (SCMA), said: "Although a cheese called Stilton was produced in the village, we believe the finished product would bear very little resemblance to the blue Stilton cheese produced in modern times.
"We now think that production ceased in the area in the second half of the 18th century as it moved to Leicestershire.
"No one person invented Stilton, it evolved over time from this pressed cooked cheese to the cheese we have today. There are still many missing links within Stilton's history."
A spokesman for leading Stilton maker Tuxford and Tebbutt said: "We don't see this as a threat to our business or the production of Stilton in the three counties.
"We are investing in the creamery and seeing increased sales of Stilton and we are very positive about the production of Stilton in Melton Mowbray."
Long Clawson Dairy declined to comment.