A taste of Britain

PGIs and PDOs... Carol Wilson looks at the story behind the acronyms and asks which of our regional dishes need protecting...

Cornish pasties

In the past, we've been careless about our unique regional foods and their heritage; consequently items such as Cornish Pasties can be made anywhere in the UK and Cheddar cheese can be made in Canada or Australia, with no consideration for the history and traditions behind them or the local ingredients and time-honoured skills involved.

Amalfi lemonsWe lag sadly behind the rest of Europe, especially France, Spain and Italy, who are fiercely protective of their regional foods and wouldn't hesitate to take legal action if their products were imitated. When you buy Roquefort, Cabrales cheeseParmigiano Reggiano, Amalfi lemons and Parma ham, for instance, you know exactly where they're from.

A European initiative to stop locally produced foods being copied by non-local brands was introduced in 1993. Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) applies to the integrity and reputation of foods with an identified geographical origin and Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) relates to products which are produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area, with features and characteristics which must be due to that geographical area. Registered foods and drinks have legal protection against imitation throughout the EU.

Pork pieThe good news is that many UK food producers are now applying for PDO and PGI status for their products. An example is The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, a small group of authentic pork pie makers, who after a ten-year campaign have gained PGI status for genuine Melton Mowbray pork pies. This will put an end to an increasing number of producers labelling generic products as 'Melton Mowbray' and charging top price. The unique pies can now be made only in a traditional manner, to an age-old recipe in the vicinity of the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray. I noticed in my local butchers recently that pies previously labelled 'Melton Mowbray' are now called 'Melton Mowbray style'.

Stilton cheeseCurrently there are about 34 British foods that enjoy protected geographical status including Stilton cheese, Cornish clotted cream and Whitstable oysters. A number of other food producers are currently in the process of applying for a PGI or PDO, for foods such as Craster kippers, Cornish Pasties and Lakeland Herdwick lamb. It's a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go - France and Italy alone have hundreds of registered products.

The protected status (easily recognisable by the blue and gold rosette on the packaging) benefits both producers and consumers; it establishes the reputation of these exceptional foods and prevents their imitation elsewhere, not only in the UK, but also abroad. As consumers, we can be sure that we're buying an authentic product and know where it was made.

Which foods do you think should be given PGI or PDO status