During the last few weeks of 2005 there was a flurry of activity in the area of registration of protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs).
Three new names were added to the Register of PDOs - Sidra de Asturias (a Spanish spice), Miel de sapin des Vosges (French honey) and Siurana (Spanish olive oil) - and two new applications are awaiting Commission attention - Patatas de Prades (Potato from Catalonia) and Melton Mowbray Pork Pies.
The purpose of Regulation 2081/92 (PDOs and PGIs) and Regulation 2082/92 (Certificates of Specific Character) is to ensure continuation of food provenance and to prevent consumers from being misled over the quality associated with certain foods and product names.
To date there are more than 700 registered PDOs and PGIs in Europe, with more than 30 further applications. With the enlarged European Union, we can expect to see this list continue to grow, although the path to achieving a protected status is not always straightforward.
The aforementioned application for the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie (by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association) was objected to by many other producers, and the final submission to the Commission has been subject to a legal challenge by Northern Foods.
Whilst food provenance may be good news for certain producers (clearly not all), it can also be a regulatory headache for food manufacturers further down the chain.
Product development is on a constant innovation cycle, using imaginative and unusual ingredients.
The risk occurs if PDO and PGI registered foods are selected in the manufacturing process, but the development team are unaware that the ingredient or final food is protected. It is critically important to track the many applications concerning food provenance, the same way that you would track additives and labelling, for example.
It's too easy to overlook this regulatory field, but it can be just as costly as other oversights!
Jean feord is business manager regulatory & technical consultancy services, Leatherhead Food International