UK manufacturers are to be encouraged to apply for protected status for their regional speciality food and drink names, according to Elizabeth Truss, minister at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

There are currently 73 regional speciality foods and drinks that boast EU protected status, such as Cornish pasties. These are granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under European Union law, and cannot be called Cornish pasties if they are not made in Cornwall.

The purpose of the scheme is to protect the reputation of regional products, promote traditional and agricultural activity and to eliminate non-genuine products, which may mislead consumers or be of inferior or different character.

200 or more

Now, Defra would like to see that number rise to 200 or more, said Truss to producers gathered at London’s Good Housekeeping Institute. She added that the UK’s protected foods were the “jewels in the crown” of the food industry, and contributed £900m to the UK economy.

Truss said that gaining protection for a product allowed producers to raise their profile, and gave them a unique selling point, particularly in the export market.

She said: “I am very keen to encourage producers to get more products registered – it is great for the reputation of British food. The guarantee of safety and provenance in a protected name makes overseas buyers so excited. France has 217 designations compared to our 73, and I think we can get at least as many.”

Three types

There are three types of EU protected designation: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for products made within a region and with distinct characteristics; Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for products manufactured within and associated with a region; and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed - TSG - awarded to foods produced by traditional methods for a minimum of 30 years.

Traditional Bramley Apple Pie Filling was recently awarded TSG status. And an application for Welsh cakes to be given protection is one of 45 protected food name applications in the pipeline.