Europe's Expanding Food Protectionism

Four more delicacies have been added to the European Union's list of protected foods, an area with a rich history of trade spats and national insults.

Radishes from the Italian town of Verona, saffron from Sardinia, olive oil from Spain's La Alcarria region and oysters from the French island of Oleron are now among the almost 800 goodies officially recognised as being linked to a specific place.

This means that the products may only be named after the area if they have actually been made there, in a bid to prevent producers from selling inferior goods under a high-quality brand name.

The additions, announced Tuesday (3 February), confirm Italy as the EU's leading foodie nation with 176 product names protected by EU law followed by France with 161 and Spain with 121.

taly's list runs the gauntlet from cheeses and meats—featuring in abundance—to certain types of olive oil, Genovese basil and prickly pears from Sicily.

While the majority of member states are represented on the list which includes British ales, German sausages and Swedish desserts, some countries that joined the EU since 2004 still have to make their mark.

Romania, Latvia and Bulgaria have not made any applications for speciality foods, according to the European Commission's website, while Malta, Estonia and Lithuania have applied to have products on the gourmet super list, but have not yet been accepted.

National food pride

Food and traditional culinary dishes continue to be a source of fierce and outspoken pride in the EU. Denmark and Greece were locked in a fierce legal tussle for several years over the use of the name Feta.

Eventually, Greece won the sole right to use the name for the crumbly goat's milk cheese, although the product still inspires national claims in other countries, such as Bulgaria and Turkey.

The issue has coloured external trade relations as well. The EU has taken Australia, the US and Canada to task for using names such as Champagne, Port and Burgundy in their domestically-produced drinks.

Food has also been the cause of some famous inter-EU insults. As an argument for why Finland should not host the EU's food agency, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi once remarked that the Finns do not even know what Prosciutto is.

Meanwhile, French former president Jacques Chirac skewered two nations at once when he joked that Britain cannot be trusted since "after Finland, it is the country with the worst food."

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