Cumberland Sausages

I just found out that Cumberland Sausages have gained Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), which is something that European Union law uses to protect the names of regional foods. There are three distinct regimes of geographical indications according to the law: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). The law which is enforced within the EU and being gradually expanded internationally via bilateral agreements between the EU and non-EU countries was designed to ensure that only products genuinely originating in that region are allowed in commerce identified by that name. This law came into force in 1992 with the purpose of the protecting the reputation of regional foods, promoting rural and agricultural activity, helping producers obtain a premium price for their authentic products, and eliminating 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.

So, Arbroath Smokies need to be made in Arbroath Scotland. For example, Roquefort cheese must be made from milk of a certain breed of sheep, and matured in the natural caves near the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the Aveyron region of France, where it is infected with the spores of a fungus (Penicillium roqueforti) that grows in these caves. In the case of the Cumberland sausage they now need to be made in what was the county of Cumberland, England, now part of Cumbria with lots of pepper and sage. They are traditionally very long (up to 50 cm), and sold rolled in a flat, circular coil but within western Cumbria they are more often served in long curved lengths.

The Protected Geographical Indication system is similar to Appellation systems throughout the world, such as the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) used in France, the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) used in Italy, the Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) used in Portugal, and the Denominación de Origen (DO) system used in Spain. In many cases, the EU PDO/PGI system works parallel with the system used in the specified country, and in some cases is subordinated to the appellation system that was already instituted, particularly with wine, for example, and in France (in particular) with cheese, for example Maroilles (as most others) has both PDO (AOP in French) and AOC classifications, but generally only the AOC classification will be shown.

Of course, this gums up the business of people who made cumberland sausages outside of the region (likewise Arbroath smokies anywhere other than Arbroath!). So, people who were selling things called cumberland sausages that were made outside of Cumberland now have to change what they call the things.

I have a couple of opinions on whether this is a good idea or not. First off, it is nice to know that you are getting the “real deal” for some of these products. On the other hand, if you live somewhere these things aren’t available due to import restrictions (as in the case of cumberland sausages), it is a royal pain in the arse. Those people are stuck with cheap substitutes for these products.

Of course, Protected Geographical Indication isn’t the only thing that can keep consumers from buying products. For example, the manufacturer could not distribute to a location (say Jordan’s Cereals, Lord Rayleigh’s Farms yoghurt, Baxter’s Soups–OK, Lord Rayleigh’s Farms doesn’t appear to produce yoghurt anymore, but…). Those poor souls are left with a desire for these products with no hope of buying them.

I forgot to add that Cornish Pasties can only be made in Cornwall, which has me wondering about those shops called something like “The Original Cornish Pasty Shoppe” in London. Do they need to go out of business or change their names? And it’s such a bugger to get to Cornwall, especially in the Summertime. I realise it’s across the Tamar, but I’m too lazy to make it to Dartmoor most times!

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