Is the UK taking proper advantage of EU food protections?

Traditional Bramley apple pie filling has just this week been added to the EU register of Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSGs) received TSG protection by the EU Commission. UK Apples & Pears Ltd, which represents three quarters of British producers, applied for TSG recognition, arguing for the traditional nature of the recipe and that other pie fillings may contain a mix of apple varieties and artificial preservatives.

There are 3 protection marks within Europe that may be applied for:

  • protected geographical indication (PGI)
  • protected designation of origin (PDO)
  • traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG)

Protected geographical indication (PGI)

In order to achieve PGI status a product must be produced, processed or prepared in the geographical area associated with it. It acts like a Trade Mark and stops manufacturers from outside a region copying a regional product and selling it as that product.

The EU will only give a product the PGI mark if they decide it has a reputation, characteristics or qualities that are a result of the area associated with it. For example, Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, Newmarket sausage, Fenland celery or ‘Cornish pasties’ (i.e. limited to products produced in Cornwall using a traditional recipe, with at least 12.5% beef and 25% vegetable content. Products can still be finally baked outside of the designated production area.)

Protected designation of origin (PDO)

In order to achieve PDO status a product must be produced, processed and prepared in one area and have distinct characteristics from this area.

PDOs differ from PGIs in that all 3 production stages must take place in the area associated with the product.

The EU will only give a product PDO status if it is decided it was made using distinct local knowledge. For example, Jersey Royal potatoes, Yorkshire forced rhubarb (limited to rhubarb produced within the 'Rhubarb Triangle' (an area between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford) produced using traditional methods) and Stilton cheese.

Traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG)

In order to achieve TSG status a product must have a traditional name and characteristics that distinguish it from other similar products.

These characteristics can’t be due to the area the product is made in or based purely on technical advances used in production. For example, traditionally farmed Gloucester old spots pork, traditional farm fresh turkey and now traditional Bramley apple pie filling.

Once protected, the TSG product can be produced in any country within the EU but has to comply with the restrictions/requirements to use the name. The main aim is to ensure inferior products cannot be promoted unfairly. The apple pie filling TSG designation will therefore be good news for Bramley apple farmers across the EU.


There are now over 1,200 products within the EU protected under these different headings; which are generally considered by consumers to convey a premium on products and therefore an advantage to those involved in their production. However, the UK is lagging behind its’ European counterparts in taking advantage of these protections. Environmental Secretary, Liz Truss, pointed out in parliament last month that the UK had only 63 protected food names, as opposed to, for example, the French, who have over 200. Also, at a conference last year Ms Truss reportedly stated: “Protected food name status provides a huge opportunity to promote high-quality local food, which is part of our identity and which consumers increasingly love. My department is very willing to help with applications.”

A food producer should therefore consider which protection might apply to their product and give the maximum benefit. Although the protection might help their product to command a market premium at home and overseas, it may also restrict their business development; (Newcastle Brown Ale famously had to apply for a protected geographical indication to be revoked to allow them to move their production facilities from Newcastle to Gateshead in 2007.)

Additionally, a product can become too well known, once the name of a product becomes widely synonymous with it to consumers, without any further explanation, there is a risk it will become regarded as ‘customary’ and simply descriptive of that type of product it i.e. ‘Bakewell tart’ within the UK and ‘spaghetti’ generally.

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