Producers of Melton Mowbray pork pies and Stilton cheese have been reacting to a commitment by the government to protect their geographical status in this country after the UK leaves the European Union (EU).
Confirmation of the bid to retain the protection the iconic foods currently enjoy, which ensures they must be made to a specific recipe and within a small radius around Melton, is made in the Brexit white paper unveiled by Prime Minister Teresa May.
It follows months of lobbying with government ministers by makers of protected foods, which also include the likes of Cumberland sausages and Cornish pasties.
If the proposals are approved, it would mean Melton pork pies and Stilton cheese would be protected in this country but an agreement would still need to be made within the EU to prevent European producers making pies and cheese with the same names but using different, and potentially, inferior recipes, which could affect exports and damage the brands.
Ashley Reek, managing director of Long Clawson Dairy, the biggest UK producer of Stilton, voiced concern that the new proposed scheme would not protect the geographical heritage of the cheese like the existing PDO (Protected Designated of Origin) status does.
He told the Melton Times: “My main concern is that the proposed post-Brexit scheme appears to be entirely new and has little or no link back to the current PDO scheme, which is operated by the EU.
“The protection provided by the current PDO scheme is well understood and, more importantly, well policed.
“If the Government’s scheme was not as robust, then it could quite easily be undermined.
“If this were to happen, then the tradition and history of Stilton to this region could be very quickly lost.”
Stephen Hallam, managing director at Melton’s Dickinson and Morris Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe, welcomed the white paper’s commitment to introducing a new scheme to continue the protection of UK foods, where they are traditionally made and the recipe used.
He said: “It’s good to see the government minister has taken notice of the extensive lobbying which has taken place and this can only be a good thing for the protected foods and the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. It’s a victory for common sense.”
Matthew O’Callaghan, a director of the Melton Mowbray Food partnership and a tireless campaigner in his role as chairman of the UK Protected Food Names Association, told the Melton Times: “What is especially pleasing is that all our hard work and lobbying seems to have paid off in that not only are protected products specifically named in the document but it also contains a guarantee of their continuous protection within the UK.
“This is great news for the continued protection of Melton Mowbray pork pies and Stilton cheese within the UK.
“We need, however, to ensure our scheme is compatible with that of the EU so that their protection is guaranteed within the EU as well.
“It’s been a long campaign but a good outcome.”
The 104-page Brexit white paper refers to foods, which have ‘a strong traditional or cultural connection to a particular place’ which have Geographical Indications (GIs), to give them ‘legal protection against imitation, and protect consumers from being misled about the quality or geographical origin of goods’.
And the paper states: “The UK will be establishing its own GI scheme after exit, consistent with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).
“This new UK framework will go beyond the requirements of TRIPS, and will provide a clear and simple set of rules on GIs, and continuous protection for UK GIs in the UK.
“The scheme will be open to new applications, from both UK and non-UK applicants, from the day it enters into force.”
The government aims to agree the contents of the white paper with the EU by October so there is time for the two parliament to give it the green light ahead of the planned official withdrawal from the EU next March.