Stoke & Staffordshire

European protected status bid for Staffordshire Oatcake

Foleys Oatcakes production line
Image caption Staffordshire oatcakes are made from a 'secret recipe' of largely oatmeal and yeast

Much like the Cornish pasty or the Melton Mowbray pork pie, the Staffordshire Oatcake is regarded as a delicacy synonymous with its local area.

Now, if re-elected to the European Parliament, the West Midlands Labour group is promising to apply to get it protected by the European Union.

It would mean a Staffordshire oatcake could only be called one if it was made in the county, using the right ingredients and method.

Candidate Sion Simon said: "They're part of our heritage and culture in the West Midlands, and they should be protected in the same way other European countries protect their food products."

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said they were also broadly supportive of the plan, but UKIP says it should be up to the UK, not Europe, to decide on which of its own products should be protected.

Tunstall tortilla

The Staffordshire oatcake should not be confused with its Scottish counterpart, which is a flat oaty biscuit.

It is made from a "secret recipe" of largely oatmeal and yeast and can be filled with anything sweet or savoury, although the most popular is cheese and bacon.

It has the appearance of a moist pancake or crepe - as Stoke-on-Trent poet and author Arthur Berry put it, a "Potteries Poppadom," or a "Tunstall Tortilla".

Jane Gavin sends oatcakes "all around the country from Scotland to Cornwall" from her shop in High Lane in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.

"I think it would help protect the brand of Staffordshire Oatcakes like it has with pork pies and various cheeses," she said.

"It would stop people pinching the idea and recipes, setting up shop in somewhere like the middle of London, and passing them off as from Staffordshire."

But Martyn Smith, who runs Foley Oatcakes in Fenton, does not believe that any companies outside the county would try to muscle in on the product.

"I wonder whether the oatcake does need protection because I've tried to sell them outside North Staffordshire and failed," he said.

"I've been to various market places and tried to sell filled oatcakes and the only people that purchased from us are ex-potters."

'No favours'

Image caption Steve Day and Martyn Smith have run Foley's Oatcakes in Fenton for more than three years

Caroline Pugh is another who is not impressed with the protection idea because her oatcake shop is just over the Staffordshire border, in Congleton, Cheshire.

She said: "If all oatcakes had to be made in Staffordshire it wouldn't do us any favours, this is our livelihood, we would have to diversify or find a way round it."

"We've had our shop for 20 years since moving here from Kidsgrove [Stoke-on-Trent]. We make all our oatcakes on site here from a traditional family recipe and get a lot of custom from Stokies."

It was a similar story for many Cornish pasty makers in Devon when it was given protected status in 2011.

Figures published in March showed pasty production has almost doubled since 2005 and the market was now worth £300m.

James Strawbridge from the Posh Pasty Company in Fowey said: "It's for tourists, it's for people buying it on the other side of the country.

"If they see the words Cornish Pasty that helps them trace the journey from start to finish, buy into the history, the local reputation and that means more sales for the Cornish economy.

"We're finding that consumers around the country are now a little bit more aware of the difference between a pasty and a Cornish pasty and it's actually helping sales."

Image caption Staffordshire oatcakes can have savoury or sweet fillings although cheese remains the most popular

But Matthew Rippon, an expert on protected food names said that the laws do not always benefit producers.

He said: "Once you have protected status you have to abide by the regulations which are fairly inflexible, so if you wanted to add a new ingredient or modify your method of production, legally you couldn't.

"Even if Staffordshire oatcakes are made with a secret recipe enough information needs to be revealed in order to have a product description which every producer would have to agree on."

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