The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is urging consumers and businesses to help protect locally-produced food products such as Beacon Fell traditional Lancashire Cheese post-Brexit, when the UK will no longer be covered by the EU's protected food names scheme.
With the government launching two consultations in preparation for replacing the EU's stringent protections, which highlight regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed via legal protection against imitation throughout the EU, the CIM is warning locals in the North West to be aware of the pitfalls should such protections not be upheld.
There are currently 86 protected food names in the UK covering everything from Melton Mowbray pork pies and Cheddar cheese, to Cornish clotted cream and Kentish ale, with famous examples from the North West including Cumberland Sausage, Beacon Fell Traditional Lancashire Cheese, and Lakeland Herdwick meat.
Such products can not be replicated outside their area of their origin and sold as cheap imitations, and carry an EU logo on the food label vouching for their authenticity. Post-Brexit, such protection will not extend to British products unless the government replaces legal provision, with ongoing Defra consultations seeking to impose a UK Geographical Indications (GI) scheme.
“The protection of food names and geographical status is one of the most important elements for many food producers," said Mark Dodds, CIM food, drink, and agriculture chair. “It sets them apart from the competition and as a result, it’s crucial to their success as a business and an employer, and is often what puts their area ‘on the map'.
“If this were to be lost or change in any way it could force many of them to re-think their strategies and the way they sell their products," Mark added. “We would urge all food producers - whether they operate within the protected scheme or not - to respond to the consultations to ensure that anything which replaces the current schemes is as robust and respected as those currently in place.”
As well as devising a new logo for products, ministers also propose introducing civil penalties including fines of up to £40,000 for breaches of the scheme, although whether the EU will recognise the UK GI scheme is the EU's trading prerogative and subject to ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Discussing the topic, John Giles - CIM food, drink, and agriculture president - added: “Provenance is becoming much more relevant in today’s marketplace as consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from – and they will often pay the producer a premium for this.
“As marketers in a competitive marketplace, it’s natural that we want to use every angle we can to promote our products," John continued. "With Brexit imminent and export opportunities uncertain, securing the future of UK food products, has never been more important.”
The consultations end on November 1st and 2nd. Visit www.defra.gov.uk for more information.