Protecting our smokehouses ‘is in the interest of EU nations’ after Brexit

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 15 Sep 2017

EUROPEAN producers would have just as much to lose as Grimsby’s traditional fish smokehouses if protected food names were not upheld after Brexit, says the industry’s spokesman.

Grimsby’s smokehouses have been curing haddock for more than a century in the town and its method is specially protected – both by the UK Government and the European Union – to prevent others from creating cheap imitations.

MPs warned this week that the protected geographical indication (PGI), bestowed upon traditional Grimsby smoked fish by the European Commission in 2009, could be at risk after Brexit.

Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Melanie Onn, Labour MP for Great Grimsby, said the loss of status could leave the door open for European companies to capitalise and hit regional economies.

The EU’s protected status ensures companies in other parts of Europe cannot use a reputable name – like Melton Mowbray pork pies, Cornish pasties, or Stilton cheese – and pass it off as their own.

Patrick Salmon, a spokesman for the Grimsby Traditional Fish Smokers Group, confirmed that the industry had concerns about Brexit’s impact.

But he said there was a strong feeling that the EU would look to strike a deal that retained protected status for British foods, as it was also in the interest of its remaining 27 member states.

“We know, and we are saying, that we should be very conscious that, at any moment now, we could lose our protected food status,” said Mr Salmon, manager of Alfred Enderby Limited, based on the Fish Docks.

“But there are thousands of these protected food statuses in Europe as well – and they want the same thing as us.

“They don’t want cheap imitation parmesan cheese or champagne imported into the UK, just as we don’t want our product being undermined on the Continent.

“We should strive for a protected food name scheme to cover all the foods currently listed in the UK. It could be a reciprocal relationship with the EU. It would need to be because I don’t think it is in anyone’s interests to lose that protection.”

Mr Salmon explained that, to retain the PGI status, the town’s smokehouses must follow the 100-year-old tradition of smoking the fish for over 12 hours and according to set conditions.

Alfred Enderby – which sell their smoked fish across the UK and Europe, from London’s Billingsgate Fish Market, all the way to St Ives in Cornwall – start the process in the evening, with the cured fish ready to package and sell at 6am the next morning.

“That is the process that has endured and we have to follow that – that is what gives you the deep and delicate flavour that is essential to our smoked haddock,” he said.

The cool air coming from the Humber estuary, as well as the availability of fresh fish from Grimsby Fish Market, is all said to add to the unique taste.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) defines traditional Grimsby smoked fish as “fillets of cod and haddock, weighing between 200 and 700 grams, which have been cold smoked in accordance with the traditional method and within a defined geographical area around Grimsby”.

Defra said it was yet to confirm the future status of Grimsby’s traditional smoked fish with the EU.

A spokesman for the department said: “We are still a member of the EU, which means the protected food names scheme remains in place. 

“Future protection of UK protected products in the EU, and EU protected products in the UK, is subject to negotiations.”

Ms Onn MP told the Telegraph that she has asked Brexit Secretary David Davis, the UK’s chief negotiator, “to ensure that Grimsby smoked haddock retains its status after Brexit”.

Grimsby smoked fish is the only protected food name in the county of Lincolnshire.

Conservative MP for Cleethorpes, Martin Vickers, said he was looking to meet with Fishing Minister, George Eustice, in order to follow-up on the smokehouses’ concerns.

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