Is it really fair that Cheddar can be made anywhere?

Protected Geographical Status is a legal framework defined in European Union law to protect the names of regional foods. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed are distinct regimes of geographical indications within the framework. This law which is enforced within the EU ensures that only products that are genuinely originating in that region are allowed in commerce identified as such. The purpose of the law is to protect the reputation of the regional foods, promote rural and agricultural activity, help producers obtain a premium price for their authentic products, and eliminate the unfair competition and misleading of consumers by non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of different flavour.

These laws protect the names of wines, cheeses, hams, sausages, seafood, olives, beers, Balsamic vinegar and even regional breads, fruits, raw meats and vegetables. They can often include strict guidelines on how a product has been made as well as its origin. The French have strict adherence to these laws and a great deal of pride is associated with their products that are ‘Appellation d’Origine Controlé’ such as the Bresse Chicken.

A recent occurrence where a ruling under these laws affected Angel Inn menus was the enforcement of the name Fetta cheese, meaning that Yorkshire cheesemakers had to come up with the term “Yorkshire Fettle”. This can still cause amusement amongst some areas in Yorkshire as ‘What Fettle’ A greeting , was mainly used by older members of the community in North East Mining communities. The term was latter bastardised by younger members of the community to signify the achievement of the physical act of love, when such topics are discussed in a public house etc.

A recurrent objection is that the proposed denomination is a generic term for the product in question: generic names cannot be registered but, once registered, the denominations are protected from genericization. Hence Cheddar cheese was deemed to be a generic name, but the PDO “West Country farmhouse Cheddar cheese” was allowed. However this is nonsence as Champagne was largely deemed, by the rest of the world especially the New World, to be a generic term for sparkling wine. The French however fought veremently to prevent producers in California from producing Champagne.

Indeed if you’ve ever been to the West Country around Cheddar you will know that you can taste some amazing artisanal, creamy, sometimes salty ever intense Cheddars that put most of what lands on supermarket shelves to shame. It’s a nonsense that Wales, Ireland and Canada can produce Cheddar. Can you imagine the uproar if Cheddar was in France?

Do you think Cheddar should be given its own DOC?

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