How often do you buy food based on where it comes from? Many of us take a cursory glance at the label before adding it to the trolley, but it could all be in vain if recent research is anything to go by.
It was good news for Cornish pasty makers last week. Well, good news for those who actually make them in Cornwall, because Cornish pasties got protected status.
It might not sound like much to you or me, but it’s a big deal to Cornish pasty makers who are proud of their product’s origins and traditions and have fought long and hard for this protection.
A fifth of local products from elsewhere
So, the Cornish pasty now has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, alongside champagne, parmesan cheese and Jersey Royal potatoes. This means that pasties made anywhere else can no longer claim to be Cornish.
And while that last point may sound obvious, other news this week proves that it most certainly is not – and that other places could do well to covet the same fierce protection of their product’s origin.
Why? Because the local government regulation (LGR) found that almost a fifth of products claiming to be ‘local’ were making false claims.
We’ve all heard horror stories about ‘British’ beans that are grown in Kent, sent to Spain to be trimmed and then come back to Wales to be packed, but this report highlights just how widespread the problem has become.
The LGR found ‘Welsh’ lamb from New Zealand, ‘Devon ham’ from Denmark and ‘West country fish fillets’ that had indeed been caught in the West Country – but filleted in China. Other atrocities included ‘fresh local cream’ which was actually a cream substitute made with vegetable fat. Nice.
Local food labelling ‘a mess’
I don’t think I’m alone in looking at labels to see where the food (apparently) comes from, but neither am I the only one who rushes round the supermarket in a hurry. Apparently shoppers spend just five seconds reading each product label in the supermarket, so transparency of labelling is clearly necessary.
And yet, as Sue Davies pointed out in a previous Conversation:
‘At the moment it’s all a mess. Legally, a food’s ‘origin’ is the place where the food last underwent a ‘substantial change’, but manufacturers don’t always interpret this as we would. It could even mean that an animal was simply slaughtered in the UK, or meat was sliced here – both meats could be called ‘British’.’
Unfortunately, this latest research only highlights what we already know – that when it comes to buying food, we don’t know much. Unless we’re tucking into Cornish pasties of course.