Very few people - especially those in the baking industry - can have failed to have heard about the EU Protected Food Name Scheme (EUPFN) in recent months. High-profile cases, such as the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association vs Northern Foods, have ensured the idea of protec-ting Britain’s food heritage is one of 2007’s industry hot topics.

EU legislation can protect food names on a geographical or traditional recipe basis in three ways. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) recognises products that are produced and processed and prepared within a particular geographical area and with features and characteristics that must be because of that geographical area.

Protected Geographical Indication, or PGI, describes food and drink which must have been produced, processed or prepared within the geographical area and have a reputation, features or qualities attributable to that area.

The final EU status - and arguably the most relevant one for bakery products - is Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TGI). This is open to products that are traditional or have customary names and set features that distinguish them from other similar, but often inferior, products. These features do not have to be attributable to the area in which the product is produced nor entirely based on technical advances in the method of production.

All three EUPFNs represent very distinct designations, but they all highlight regional and traditional foods, whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed.

Our European neighbours have recognised the positive implications of this legislation for more than a decade. In Britain, we have just 36 EUPFNs, while Italy has an enviable 155 and France 149. Although our few EUPFNs remain largely unknown, Brits readily scour the aisles for Parmigiano Reggiano, Roquefort, Parma ham or Champagne, knowing that their PDOs will be a guarantee of quality and authenticity. It is this level of understanding and awareness of the scheme that we need to translate to British products, by increasing the number of British EUPFNs.

One of the most obvious benefits of achieving the status is that a bakers receive protection from imitation throughout the UK and their goods have a clear point of difference from those of their competitors. With a little educa-tion, consumers will understand that to buy an EUPFN product means they can be confident they will get premium bakery product with a known provenance - and they will potentially pay a higher price to purchase it.

In bakery, there are innumerable products that are ripe for applying for the EUPFN status, such as Chelsea Buns, Ripon Spice Cake, Eccles Cakes, Crusty Swansea Bread, Bath Oliver Biscuits, Guernsey Gâche and Goosnargh Cakes, to name a few. And with no cost involved for applying and a wealth of benefits, there is no reason why more bakers shouldn’t be taking advantage of the scheme.

The simplest way to apply for EUPFN status is to form an association with those who share the same vested interest. While not costly, it does require a reasonable investment of time, so collaborating with other bakers would ensure this level of commitment is satisfied. It also ensures that Food from Britain, which guides producers through the application process, can have just one point of contact, helping the process run more efficiently, as achieving the status can take between two to three years.

Forming an association is also more in the spirit of the scheme; it is designed to help as many UK producers as possible have the quality and authenticity of their products recognised. n