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The Cornish Pasty Debate

The Cornish Pasty Debate

From mid March, only pasties made in Cornwall can be called 'Cornish Pasties'. This follows the successful application for Protective Geographical Indication (PGI) status for the Cornish pasty under European Law.

The intention behind PGI status is to protect the reputation of regional food stuff and eliminate unfair competition from products driving from a different area which may be of differing quality.  Only certain products with key criteria may apply for the status.  Once the status is given, the PGI status is treated as an intellectual property right (by virtue of the Customs Regulation 1383, 2003).  The PGI status is open to products which must be produced or processed or prepared within the geographical area and have a reputation, features or certain qualities attributable to that area.

For nine years, the Cornish Pasty Association has fought for PGI status and on 22 February the application was finally successful.  

What is a Cornish Pasty?

From Mid March 2011, in order to call a pasty a 'Cornish Pasty' certain criteria must be met. The criteria are:

  • The pasty is 'D' shaped and crimped (either by hand or mechanically) on one side, never on top.
  • The distinctive feature of the product is that the filling for the pasty is made up of uncooked minced or roughly-cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede/turnip (the two terms are interchangeable for the same product), potato and onion, with a light peppery seasoning.
  • The pastry casing is golden in colour, savoury, glazed with milk or egg and robust enough to retain shape throughout the cooking and cooling process without splitting or cracking. The whole is slow-baked to ensure that flavours from the raw ingredients are maximised. The taste is rounded, predominantly tasting of vegetables, light seasoning (salt and pepper), with beef and baked pastry notes.
  • The texture of the filling is chunky.
  • Flavourings and additives must not be used.

In addition the pasty will have to be manufactured in Cornwall.  This means that although the pasty can be baked outside Cornwall, it must be prepared in Cornwall. The ingredients do not have to derive from Cornwall. 

Those pasties baked outside Cornwall, and those made with non-specified ingredietns and anything other than in a traditional manner can not be called a Cornish Pasty.

Those that manufacture Cornish pasties will periodically be checked by a nominated inspection body to ensure the pasties are conforming to the correct criteria. In addition The PGI designation and the appropriate logo developed by the Cornish Pasty Association should be displayed.

The Cornish pasty joins 42 other British EU protected products, with those from the South West being;

Cornish clotted cream (PDO)

Cornish sardines (PGI)

Dorset Blue Cheese (PGI)

Exmoor Blue cheese (PGI)

Simon Gawler heads up the Food and Drink team at Stephens Scown.  The firm has offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell and is described as a 'regional heavyweight by independent legal guide Chambers.

For more information please email foodanddrink@stephens-scown.co.uk or visit Stephens Scown's specialist food and drink solicitors