Could Cornish pasties be the forgotten victims of Brexit?

Classic British foods may lose special marque of distinction if UK leaves EU

Cornish pasties are made by hand at Pasty Line in Helston in Cornwall, south-west England, on June 15, 2016. Katherine Haddon/ Agence France-Presse
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POOL, CORNWALL // For weeks, the politicians have droned on about the dangers of Britain leaving or staying in the European Union. But what no one has discussed is what happens to the Cornish pasty?

The much-loved British snack — a pastry shell filled with beef, potato, swede and onion — received Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in 2011, distinguishing it as a regional British delicacy associated with Cornwall, the most westerly English county. Now manufacturers are worried about whether the pasty will retain its PGI status.

The Cornish Pasty Association, a body which represents the local industry, has declared its support for EU membership, saying it would be “wholly inappropriate” to risk losing the hard-earned distinction the PGI label confers..

Prime minister David Cameron has also warned that the status of British regional foods could be jeopardised by leaving the EU.

Marion Symonds, of Portreath Bakery, who has opened what she claims is the world’s first drive-through Cornish pasty bakery, fears the loss of PGI, would mean pasties made outside Cornwall could also call themselves Cornish pasties and quality would be compromised.

“We wouldn’t have a hope and it wouldn’t be right,” she said. “In Cornwall, you’d never get a pasty with a carrot in it because it’s taboo,” she said. “But if you went out of county — and I’ve seen it myself, in London and all sorts of places — where they try to do a replica of our pasty, it’s just got mush in the middle.”

The Cornish pasty was a popular hearty meal for Cornish tin miners in the19th century. Originally, half the pasty was filled with meat and vegetables, the other with jam, making a savoury and sweet snack all in one. The crimped edges of the pasty kept the filling hot inside and legend has it that the distinctive lozenge or D-shape of the Cornish pasty came about because it could be dropped down mine shafts to the men working underground. Miners took pasty recipes with them around the world as they travelled to work in countries such as Australia and Mexico, where they are still eaten to this day.

Today the Cornish pasty industry is worth an estimated £65 million (Dh349m) a year and employs at least 2,000 people in an area where work is often seasonal because of the tourist trade.

Other British foodstuffs with PGI status include Scotch whisky, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton cheese, Jersey royal potatoes and Arbroath smokies, a type of smoked fish. .

Elsewhere in the EU, Italian balsamic vinegar from Modena and German beer from Munich also have PGI status.

* Agence France-Presse