In particular, the Devon Cream Tea is the latest British culinary foodstuff to seek EU protected status. I have previously blogged on the pleasures of the cream tea, making reference to the classic Devon cream tea but failing to point out the singular status which its supporters accord it. The Devon clotted cream, of course, is particularly special, but as others would argue many counties produce equally appealing versions.
Photo from the BBC Story
The substance of the story focuses on the very idea of "protected status," how it is accorded, and what it means for business, cuisine, and how we conceive of national and regional foods. Protected status accords its recipients legal protection from imitators. The most famous legal example is the famous Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) system that strictly dictates how French wine and champagne may be labelled and marketed. Champagne may, of course, only be labelled such if it is produced in the region of Champagne (otherwise it is "sparkling wine"), Burgundy in Burgundy, and so forth. The whole notion is predicated on a very French notion of "terroir" - literally meaning "of the land," and the particular characteristics that a region lends to its farmed commodities.
The awarding of EU protected status to British foodstuffs has followed much the same notion, which to some critics rings untrue, prejudicing certain areas over others in ways that do not allow for change over time. It is a static conception of cuisine and food production. As the article explains, some "complain the scheme is illogical and bureaucratic, encourages cartel-like behaviour, sets regions against each other and stifles innovation." Most of the protected foods are distinctly regional, as listed (below), and the question becomes why and how such designations are decided upon and what effect this has on culinary innovation, quality control, and open competition.
British foods with EU protection status:
- Kentish strong ale (PGI)
- Cornish Clotted Cream (PDO)
- Welsh Beef (PGI)
- Arbroath Smokies (above) (PGI)
- Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb (PDO)
- Traditional Grimsby Smoked Fish (PGI)
- Scottish Farmed Salmon (PGI)
- Isle of Man Manx Loaghtan Lamb (PDO)