Since the European’s Union establishment in 1993, the organization has taken steps to protect local and traditional culinary traditions. This practice has reached a new heights in the United Kingdom, where the town of Stilton is challenging a ban against producing the cheese named after it.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
The EU’s protected list of more than 800 foods and drinks includes famous names like Champagne and Parma as well as lesser-known delicacies such as Moutarde de Bourgogne, Munchener Bier and a Spanish chili pepper called Asado del Bierzo. It even covers Foin de Crau, a hay for animals from the fields of Bouches-du-Rhône in southern France.
But to the chagrin of locals, no cheese made here can be branded as Stilton. That’s because a group of outsiders, called the Stilton Cheesemakers Association, raised a formal stink.
The association, whose members have been making the cheese for more than a hundred years, in 1996 sought to protect the “Stilton” name by applying for a Product Designation of Origin from the EU. In its application, the group wrote that “the cheese became known as Stilton because it was at the Bell Inn in this village that the cheese was first sold to the public.” The 17th-century inn, which still stands in the main street, is the village’s oldest.
In recent memory, Stilton cheese has been produced outside of the village, but the Journal explains, a historian recently found evidence of the cheese being made within the eponymous municipality in the 18th century. The record failed to sway current cheese producers who assert that the recipe has most likely changed since then. This suggests the question — in their effort to preserve historical practices, how far back should bureaucrats look?
Advocates of limiting food production suggest that it protects gastronomic quality and heritage. The darker, unseen consequences, however, are government-sponsored monopoly food production and quantity restriction. Paradoxically, earlier this spring, the EU increased enforcement of its antitrust regulations. The international governing body is becoming increasingly involved in the private sector by taking it upon itself to decide politically acceptable business practices.