Traditional Grimsby smoked fish looks set to be the latest UK product to be granted protected name status, following a nine-year wait.
The product has just completed a six-month consultation on its application for Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) approval and if there are no objections, the European Commission (EC) is likely to grant it PGI status over the next couple of months. The last UK product to receive PGI approval was Melton Mowbrey Pork Pie, which gained approval last June.
The Traditional Grimsby smoked fish application, originally submitted in May 2000, covers fresh fish, molluscs, and crustaceans and products derived from them, which meet the appropriate PGI criteria. PGI status provides legal protection to prevent producers that don’t meet the specific PGI criteria from passing off their products as that named.
“If there are no objections within two months or so [Traditional Grimsby smoked fish] will be placed in the Official Journal and have its own name,” said Irene Bocchetta, EU protected food names manager for consultancy ADAS.
PGI covers products produced, processed or prepared in a specific geographical area with reputation, features or qualities attributable to that area. It differs from Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, which refers to products with specific geographical features, which have been produced, processed and prepared in a particular geographical area.
As legal firm Eversheds pointed out, the key distinction between the two is that for a PDO the product must be produced, processed and prepared within the geographical area in question, whereas a PGI requires only one of these stages to be linked.
As well as PDO and PGI there is the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) scheme for products which have a traditional composition or method of production, or use traditional raw materials. Unlike PDO and PGO, TSG has witnessed very little take-up. There are also a host of private and national schemes, reported Eversheds.
Compared to hundreds of foods and beverages that have protected status on the Continent, in the UK just 15 have PDO status; 17 PGI status; and only one, Traditional Farmfresh Turkey, has TSG status.
While food and farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick recently called for more UK producers to apply for protected name status, in a move welcomed by the Food and Drink Federation, the EC is currently considering substantial changes to the EU’s protected food names in an attempt to reduce the widespread consumer confusion inherent with so many different labelling schemes. Currently for the UK, 10 PGI applications, three PDOs and two TSGs are awaiting approval.
In a report published in May, the EC proposed making the application process simpler and more flexible. It also called for clearer information to be provided (and more stringent regulations) as to the origin of raw materials; and it wants a single list of registered products to be compiled, merging the system with that applying to wines. Regulatory proposals are expected from the EC during 2010.
Eversheds’ food labelling expert Owen Warnock said that whatever approach the EC ultimately took, it would be a tough challenge to achieve real clarity. And while he suggested that some producers considering applications might be wise to apply now to avoid more stringent criteria or to pre-empt inconsistent applications from others in the industry, he added that others might wish to wait for next year’s proposals before taking the plunge.