Northern Foods takes pork pie battle to Court of Appeal

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The Independent Online

The battle over the culinary status of Melton Mowbray pork pies will go to the Court of Appeal after Northern Foods announced plans to fight for the right to make this icon of traditional British cuisine across the UK.

Two of Northern Foods' pork pie factories - in Market Drayton, Shropshire, and Trowbridge, Wiltshire - face closure after a High Court judge threw out its attempt to block the pie's progress towards European protected status.

The judge ruled in December that pie makers could apply to the European Commission to ask for the Melton Mowbray name to be limited to pies produced in the region around the Leicestershire town. This would put the flaky pastry and meat snacks on a par with the likes of Parma ham and Champagne, in line with a government-backed initiative.

Northern Foods believes the mooted 1,800 square mile pie-making zone is arbitrary and favours its arch-rival, Samworth Brothers, which is behind the Ginster pastry products and is based in Leicester, 16 miles from Melton Mowbray.

Carol Williams, the group's company secretary, attacked the EU legislation giving local producers the right to seek special status for allowing Samworth Brothers to "cynically manipulate the law at the expense of consumers and the food industry".

She said: "This is not in the spirit of the EU legislation which is supposed to protect traditional recipes and rural industries." Samworth Brothers is leading the crusade on behalf of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association.

Northern Foods said it was also seeking a meeting with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to find out how long it will have to adapt to the new regime if its appeal fails.

The group, which issued a profits warning last week after failing to push through price increases with its customers, has made Melton Mowbray pork pies to traditional recipes for more than 100 years at its sites across the UK. It supplies the pies to some of the country's top supermarket chains under their own label brands. Marks & Spencer is its biggest customer, but Northern would not confirm whether it was responsible for the retailer's pork pies.