Cornish Pasty moves closer to PGI

Pie manufacturers outside Cornwall have been left dismayed over plans which could soon find them unable to label their pasties as Cornish.

Regional producers in Cornwall are pushing for PGI status for the iconic product, plans which have moved a step closer after the UK government backed their European bid for regional protection.

Defra is now to take the Cornish Pasty Association's (CPA) application for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) to Brussels.

If successful, only pasty makers in Cornwall that use traditional methods and recipes for the meat-and-vegetable pastry snack will be able to use the trademark or "appellation contrôlée", barring copy-cat products from branding and marketing their products as Cornish pasties.

The bid is the brainchild of the CPA, formed in 2002 by a group of about 40 pasty makers based in Cornwall to protect the quality and reputation of the snack.

"The importance of the Cornish pasty industry to the wider Cornish economy cannot be stressed enough," said Angie Coombs of the CPA committee. "The application is a genuine attempt to protect the consumer and encourage investment in local economies."

CPA members make about 87m pasties a year. The £60m sales represent about 6% of the Cornish food economy, it said.

Many ingredients are sourced locally and it is estimated that 13,000 people are directly or indirectly benefiting from CPA trade, it added.

However, both Pukka Pies and Peter's Foodservice believe the decision could seriously impact on their companies. "We would have to rethink the shape, the filling, everything," said Darren Evans from Peter's Foodservice. "We have been producing Cornish pasties for 30 years. We would be forced to rework the whole process and production line."

Peter Mayes, from Pukka Pies, said his company was keeping an eye on the situation and would wait for the outcome of the European ruling before it dropped the word 'Cornish'. "Our understanding is that there will be time to make necessary amendments to packaging/product names. We will of course conform with the ruling when it is announced."

A spokesman for Defra said the application meets all the criteria for a protected food name. It will now go in front of an appeal process, before being considered by the European Commission.

Any trademark would cover the Cornish pasty's traditional recipe and appearance. A genuine Cornish pasty has a distinctive D shape, with the pastry crimped on one side, never on top.

It is filled with minced or roughly cut chunks of beef, swede or turnip, potato and onion.

"We believe it is not unreasonable to ask companies to label their products honestly, so that the consumer is guaranteed a level of quality, recipe and origin when they purchase them," the CPA said.

Earlier this year, Melton Mowbray pork pies were given PGI status by officials in Europe, following a 10-year fight.

The move meant only producers making pork pies using a traditional recipe and in the vicinity of Melton Mowbray can use the Leicestershire town's name.

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