Cheesemakers from the parish of Stilton have suffered a major setback in their bid to call their cheese after the village, after their application was rejected by Defra.
The name Stilton is protected under the European Union's Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) scheme, meaning that cheese bearing the name must meet strict production criteria.
At the moment, stilton cheese has to be made in Leicestershire, Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire, despite a claim from campaigners that production of the cheese originates from the Cambridgeshire village.
The Original Cheese Company applied to have the PDO of Stilton changed to allow produce from the parish to be brought under the name, claiming that it was widely accepted that the cheese first originated in the village around the beginning of the 18th century.
The company also added that it had been producing cheese made to the specifications of Stilton since 2011, and that it would give its blue cheese the same name if its bid to amend the PDO was successful
But its appeal was rejected by Defra, with a spokeswoman explaining: “As The Original Cheese Company is not producing Stilton cheese, its application to change the product specification does not meet EU eligibility rules.”
Despite continued protests from the Original Cheese Company, Defra's decision has been welcomed by current producers of the cheese.
Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Food Partnership, Matthew O'Callaghan, expressed his delight, claiming: “Stilton Cheese originated in the Melton Mowbray area and not in the village of Stilton.”
He added that allowing any cheese made in the village under the name of Stilton would have been “a travesty and damaging to the reputation, heritage and quality of authentic Stilton cheese”.
The Original Cheese Company disagreed, with director Richard Landy explaining to The Grocer: “We would welcome anyone who can produce contemporary documented evidence of Stilton cheese being produced in Leicestershire prior to 1788.”
The firm has said that it intends to contest Defra's initial ruling.