Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Welsh products seeking EU Protected Food Name registration

You may have seen recent articles in the national and regional media about British food and drink products seeking EU Protected Food Name status. There are currently 63 protected food names in the UK, and many more have been proposed - with the UK government wanting the number of protected British foods to increase to 200.

Here in Wales, for instance, nine products have been put forward for consideration: Carmarthen ham, Traditional Welsh Caerphilly cheese, Traditionally-reared Pedigree Welsh pork, Conwy mussels, Welsh laverbread, West Wales coracle-caught salmon, West Wales coracle-caught sewin, Traditional Welsh cider and Traditional Welsh perry. They will join products such as Halen Mon Anglesey Sea Salt, which was awarded EU Protected Food Name status last year.

This post gives a bit more background, than found in the mainstream media articles, about how these foods are considered by the European Commission (EC) for protected name status.

The system for the protection of food names on a geographical or traditional recipe basis in the EU dates from a piece of legislation in 1993. The EU Protected Food Name scheme was introduced to highlight regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed. It encourages diverse agricultural production, protects product names from misuse and imitation, and helps consumers by giving them information concerning the specific characteristics of the products.

There are three marks (and logos) that can be awarded to regional and traditional products:
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how;
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to their geographical area (i.e. at least one key production stage takes place in the area); and
Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG), which highlights traditional character, either in the composition or means of production.

In Wales, for example, Welsh Lamb and Pembroke Early Potatoes have been awarded PGI status, while Anglesey Sea Salt was the first Welsh product to be awarded PDO status. The characteristic flavour of Welsh lamb arises from traditional breeds and extensive farming practices; early potatoes have long been grown in Pembrokeshire using a distinct method (e.g. leaving stones in fields to warm the soil); while sea salt, produced in Anglesey since Roman times, has a distinct appearance, flavour and mouthfeel compared to other salts.

If a product is successful in its registration under the scheme, it will be given legal protection against imitation throughout the EU. Inferior imitation products in Italy and Spain, for instance, had been using ‘Halon Mon’ on their labels – under the EU Protected Food Name scheme the producers of these can be prosecuted.  Registration also raises awareness of regional and speciality foods throughout Europe.

The UK government, through DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), gives guidance on how to apply to register a product under the EU Protected Food Name scheme:

Applications (based on a template supplied by the EC) can be put forward by groups of producers or individuals. The Caws Cenarth diary is applying through DEFRA, for example, to register Traditional Welsh Caerphilly. The submission, which is for PDO status, is the final stages of review and includes details of milk sourcing and the production process, a definition of the product’s chemical composition, and a history of Caerphilly cheese production in the area. These submissions are a good source of information about the food products:

In the case of Carmarthen Ham (“an air dried salt cured ham made from pork legs”) the application is being made by Chris Rees and his family, who have handed down the recipe for five generations. You can read their application for PGI status here:

Selwyn's Penclawdd Seafoods in Llanmorlais, Swansea, is seeking PDO status for Welsh laverbread:

The Conwy Mussel Group submitted an application for protected name status for Conwy mussels:

The application for traditionally reared pedigree Welsh pork, also in the final stages of review, is for TSG status:

The Carmarthen Coracle and Netsmen’s Association are applying for PGI status for both West Wales coracle caught salmon and West Wales coracle caught sewin:

Meanwhile, the Welsh Perry and Cider Society Limited, representing 44 producers and based in Newport, is applying for PFO status for both Traditional Welsh cider and Traditional Welsh perry:

There is also an amendment to an application for Welsh beef (PGI status) in the system:

At the national level, an application dossier compiled by the submitting producer group or individual is assessed by DEFRA. This is subjected to a national opposition procedure, giving other organisations or individuals an opportunity to query the application. All valid applications are then sent to the European Commission for assessment. The relevant EC committee first looks at each application to see if it complies with the relevant legislation, primarily four EC Food Quality regulations. This process can take up to six months, after which applications are either rejected or published in an EU Official Journal. From this, an EU-wide opposition procedure starts whereby objections from other producers or individuals can be made over a three-month period. If any objection is made, there is a two-month period for deciding on the validity of objections. Finally, successful applications are registered under the scheme as a protected food name.

There can be big economic benefits to having regional food names protected. The Welsh Government, for example, is promoting the country as a food tourism destination; so a greater number of recognised regional specialities is desirable. In other parts of the UK, similar economic benefits could occur, for example, in Birmingham’s Balti Triangle if Birmingham Balti is successful in getting TSG status within the EU Protected Food Names scheme.

The Protected Food Name scheme is a continuous process, so not all the decisions are reported at once. You can search the EC DOOR database ("Database Of Origin & Registration") to find how each application for EU Protected name status is doing (Applied, Published or Registered):

I will report back at a later date with some analysis on the outcomes of the above applications.

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