Cambridgeshire MP "disappointed" as Stilton cheese row rolls on

An MP fighting for Stilton cheese to be made in the Cambridgeshire village of the same name has described the claims of a food naming official as "disappointing" as the row continues to cause a stink.

Matthew O'Callaghan, chairman of the UK Protected Food Names Association, claims it is English law that restricts production of the cheese to Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Shailesh Vara, whose North West Cambridgeshire constituency includes the village of Stilton, claims it is EU rules that have prevented the cheese from being made there.

He said this is an accurate assessment of the situation up to this point. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that EU rules, including those on geographical indications, protect favourites such as Stilton cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

During the Brexit transition period these will continue to apply.

There is also relevant English case law, Defra said.

Mr Vara said it is "disappointing" that Mr O'Callaghan is claiming that protection of the Stilton name for the famous cheese is not a matter for EU law but one for English law.

"I appreciate that existing producers of Stilton cheese, who Mr O'Callaghan represents, wish to protect their exclusive rights to this lucrative business, said to be worth £50 million annually, but it is important arguments are conducted on the basis of facts," he said.

"As the MP for North West Cambridgeshire, which includes the village of Stilton, I have been approached by constituents who wish to make the famous cheese locally.

"Historical evidence proves that the cheese was originally made in Stilton village in 1722 and it would be fantastic if we could make the cheese again.

"It would be great for local jobs and tourism and it would certainly be a boost for the local economy."

Mr O'Callaghan said: "When the High Court in 1966 granted the trademark for Stilton cheese and so restricted its production to the three counties of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, it did so with the clear understanding that the village of Stilton would be permanently excluded from applying for certification by the Stilton Cheesemakers' Association to make cheese and call it Stilton.

"When the EU Protected Food Names Scheme was introduced, it was clearly stated that it was not designed to replace trademarks already in existence.

"In fact any application that did so was to be refused.

"The legislation establishing the Protected Food Names scheme allowed trademarks applied for before the Protected Food Names scheme to co-exist with any Protected Food Names designation.

"So the trademark for Stilton and the restrictions imposed by the High Court are still valid."