A recent article from WSJ.com reports an ongoing row on a form of geographic indication issued by the EU on an English cheese.
Given the fame of Stilton cheese it comes as some surprise that the village of Stilton cannot legally produce the product that bears its name. There are 6 producers (all of which are outside of Stilton) who were originally granted the EU “PDO”, Product Designation of Origin.
The EC website defines a product designation of origin as follows:
“PDO – covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how.”
Until recently it was believed that Stilton (the cheese) was never actually made in Stilton (the place). The name had come about because the distinctive cheese was served and sold in Stilton, a busy coach stop centuries ago. This has now been challenged by a local historian who found references to the village’s own cheese production dating from the 18th century and there is talk that this could create new market opportunities for the village of Stilton.
The huge amount of brand value tied up in products such as Stilton cheese, Champagne, Parma ham etc are bound to cause some disputes, and this in turn is bound to lead to small print “nit-picking”. Whilst reading the public comments to the WSJ article bemoaning protectionism and mindless bureaucracy, its worth remembering the valid rationale behind these certification schemes — namely to:
“encourage diverse agricultural production, protect product names from misuse and imitation and help consumers by giving them information concerning the specific character of the products”