Pizza protection!

I thought I’d cook up a little blog post about the EC’s recent decision to grant special legal protection to Neopalitan pizzas. Pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 509/2006 on “agricultural products and foodstuffs as traditional specialities guaranteed”, the EU’s quality food board has granted the Neopalitan pizza coveted Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) status.

A TSG is a trade mark granted by the EU to protect agricultural products or foodstuffs which have certain features setting them clearly apart from other similar products belonging to the same category. TSG foodstuffs must be manufactured using traditional ingredients or production processes. 

TSG is not to be confused with similar-sounding EU “indications of geographical origin”. To receive TSG status a product doesn’t have to be manufactured in a specific geographically delimited area. This sets the TSG protection apart from the PDO (“Protected Designation of Origin”) and PGI (“Protected Geographical Indication”), separate protections arising where a product is traditionally and at least partly manufactured within a specific region.

You can chew over the distinctions by conjugating and deliberating the following local examples in a Masterchef style.  Orkney Beef is protected by PDO; Scotch Lamb, Arbroath Smokies and Scottish Farmed Salmon are protected by PGI; and across the border English food manufacturers have left no doubt as to the traditional nature of their fare by claiming TSG status for “Traditional Bramley Apple Fie Filling” and “Traditional Farmfresh Turkey”.  (The applications for “Really Traditional We’ve Been Making It For Years Deep Fried Mars Bar” and “Come On Big Man, Of Course It’s Traditional Macaroni Pie” are surely imminent.)

Returning to Neopalitan pizza, the practical upshot of all of this is that only pizza made according to the Neapolitan tradition can now be called “Neapolitan Pizza”. Theoretically, pizza restaurants and pizza manufacturers across the globe will have to conform to a strict list of ingredients and a specific method of cooking if they want to label their pizza “Neopolitan”. If they don’t then they could be subject to a fine (to a maximum of 35,000 Euros), or even imprisonment.

According to the original application by the Naples pizzaiolo (pizza-maker) association, to make a pizza in the traditional Neopolitan way you must use durum wheat flour, sea salt, fresh yeast, genuine mozzarella cheese from the milk of buffaloes (rather than cows) and San Marzano tomatoes (from Mount Vesuvius). There’s also various requirements as to size and diameter.

You may find the existence of this Traditional Specialty Guaranteed protection rather surprising, and perhaps even a little ridiculous. Personally I admire how the people of Naples are proudly defending their creation, and I’m sure it had absolutely nothing to do with trying to make some cash.  I do however wonder how rigorously the legal protection can actually be enforced. 

While I hope everybody gets a slice of the pie, I wish them luck, because they’re going to knead it. 

I’m now starving – vending machine here I come!

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February 2010
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