Thursday, August 25, 2011

Protected Geographical Status: The European Union Cares About the Geography of Food Names

The European Union really cares about the geography of food names
I wrote about the humor concerning the battle over what is "champagne" in the United States.    French wine growers from the Champagne region claim that Americans selling bubbly wine as "champagne" cheat customers because "true" champagne is made so wonderful because of the soil, sun, and other geographic factors.

One can laugh at the fact that the battle over champagne is a multi-million dollar war involving vast public relations campaigns and congressional lobbying.  One may say while shaking their head "Buffalo wings do not have to be made in Buffalo," or "Canadian bacon does not need to come from Canada."

The European Union, though, is not laughing.  In fact, the European Union has a complete legal framework called the Protected Geographical Status designed to protect local/regional interests by controlling the names of food products.  The European Union's Protected Geographical Status website states that 1,289 food products' geography-derived names are legal protected by the framework.

For example, let us examine the Cornish Pasty.  I grew up eating pasties due to me having family roots from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  While I grew up knowing the food as "pasty", most restaurants I have gone to refer to the meal as "Cornish Pasty."  In the European Union, calling a pasty which was not made in Cornwall, England a "Cornish Pasty" would be illegal.  There is an official document describing just what exactly a Cornish Pasty is.  Key parts from said document:

"On assembling Cornish Pasties, the pasties are D-shaped and pastry edges are crimped either by hand or mechanically to one side, and never on top"
"Cornish Pasties must be free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives"
"Assembly of the pasties in preparation for baking must take place in the designated area [from elsewhere in the document:  'The administrative area of Cornwall'].  The actual baking does not have to be done within the geographical area, it is possible to send the  finished but unbaked and/or frozen pasties to bakers or other outlets outside the area where they can be baked in ovens for consumption."

The European Union would like to have a word with you if you consider this a "Cornish Pasty"
That is right.  It is illegal to make a "Cornish Pasty" not D-shaped, with artificial coloring, or anywhere outside Cornwall.

There are 1,288 other products that have this level of legal protection/bureaucratic backing their name.  The European Union takes their geographically-derived names seriously.  One interesting note: non-European Union member Switzerland has not moved to protect the name "Swiss Cheese." 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's more or less like the protection concerning trademarks, only that it's about food and not about the company. The producers who get their goods protected from imitation are most likely sons and daughters of grand-grandfathers already producing those particular goods, instead of being multinational giants. While in the US you have Kraft and Kellogg's, to begin with, we in Europe have traditions and understanding on the food itself, instead of understanding on the trademarks. People here really care about what they eat and the difference between Roquefort and Stilton really does exist! And stop laughing there! :D

I'm a Finn living in Italy and when I go and ask an italian what's his favorite ice-cream label, he for sure will not answer "Haagen Dazs" or "Ben&Jerry's", but "Pippo Baudo's ice-creamery in Via Roma", or something similar..

I personally think it's fantastic to protect those foods - seriously, they cannot possibly produce Parmigiano Reggiano in China, it would never be the same! Also, it would be an insult against the traditional artisans who learned the producing methods from their fathers.

Here people prefer eating genuine, natural products that come from close to their homes. Life is regional over here.

Then, there are vast differences in Europe: in my home country (Finland) the consumers' preferences are much more similar to the ones of the Americans, than to those of the Italians.