Government urged to pursue new recognition for protected food names

In a letter to three Secretaries of State, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland has called for changes to be made to the way the UK proposes to deal with new products seeking Protected Food Names status post-Brexit.

Post-Brexit, the Government’s current intention is to keep a UK system separate from the European system.

That has no implications for existing protected products but it does mean food producers who require future name protection will have to apply to both the UK Government and European Commission separately if they wish to receive protection in both jurisdictions.

What’s in a name?

Protected Food Names is the overall catch-all for any scheme to protect food names. The European system is broken down into three categories:

  • Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) such as Orkney Beef and Lamb. To receive this, the entire product must be traditional or entirely manufactured in the specific place or country.
  • Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) such as Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb. To receive this, the product must be traditionally or at least partially manufactured in the geographical area.
  • Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) gives protection to food products of a specific food ‘character’, rather than being linked to a location that is a production method or processing. The characteristic production attributes must distinguish it from other products of the same category.

Given the additional layer of bureaucracy that they would face, NFU Scotland has written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove; the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Dominic Raab.

It calls for the system of mutual recognition with Europe to be maintained and raises concerns that the food name protections Scotland enjoys just now could be lost under future trade deals if we do not maintain the system of mutual recognition with the European Union.

‘Extremely concerned’

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said the union was ‘extremely concerned’.

“Food name protection has brought significant benefits to Scottish food and farming. Products such as Scotch Whisky, Scottish Farmed Salmon, Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb,” he said.

“Stornoway Black Pudding and Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar all have PGI status and all have all been protected from imitation in a market of more than 500 million potential customers across Europe.

Currently, food producers apply to the UK Government or devolved administrations who then take the application to the European Commission. The understanding of NFUS is that the UK Government’s proposed position in dealing with new applications will add an additional bureaucratic step.

“We are calling on the UK Government to seek a memorandum of understanding of mutual recognition for food name protection.

“This would mean that if the UK Government gives protection to a UK food product then this will also be given to the product in the European Union, equally if the European Commission gives protection to a European food product then the UK Government will adopt protection for this product in the United Kingdom.”