Home World Melton MP fears for Stilton over healthy eating review

Melton MP fears for Stilton over healthy eating review

An MP has claimed new food rules could put one of the UK’s most famous foods under threat.

Alicia Kearns, who represents Rutland and Melton, is worried the National Food Strategy could damage the market for Stilton cheese.

The initiative suggests higher taxes for salty and sugary foods.

Ms Kearns believes Stilton’s traditional recipe could mean it is unfairly penalised and has appealed to the government to help.

‘Protected food’

The National Food Strategy, which was published in July, says consumption of foods that are high in salt and sugar needs to drop by a quarter in the next decade and backs increased taxes for them as a deterrent.

But Stilton is made to a precise recipe and method, and changing this to satisfy the strategy would undermine its appeal, Ms Kearns said.

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The cheese has Protected Designation of Origin status and can only be labelled Stilton if produced in villages on the Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire border, near Melton Mowbray, and Derbyshire.

Stilton sales have suffered during the pandemic and manufacturers are facing additional bureaucracy since Brexit.

Image caption,A cheese can only be labelled Stilton if produced in certain parts of the East Midlands

Ms Kearns said: “Stilton is the queen of British cheese – and one of the prides of Melton Mowbray.

“I am concerned that [Henry] Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy proposals could result in a call to change the salt content in our wonderful Stilton. This would completely destroy Stilton.

“Stilton is, of course, a protected food – and I don’t believe that we should be changing the centuries-old recipe and destroying a local economy.”

Ms Kearns said she had met with Victoria Prentis, Minister of State at Defra, to discuss the matter but no decisions had been made.

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Matthew O’Callaghan, who organises Melton Mowbray’s Artisan Cheese Fair, said: “The salting is an essential process of the production of Stilton cheese.

“It is not just there for flavour. It is part of the process of controlling the bluing of the Stilton cheese.”

He said with less salt “it would be difficult to make the cheese to current standards”.

Mr O’Callaghan added: “The problem with these sort of measures is they are a catch-all and they don’t look at the way individual products are affected.”

Defra said it recognised the specific methods used to produce Stilton are “essential to [its] identity”.

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It added: “We will carefully consider the evidence of Henry Dimbleby’s independent review throughout the development of the Government Food Strategy, which will be published in early 2022.

“The Food Strategy will set out our ambition and priorities for the food system: to support our exceptional British food and drink producers, protect and enhance the nation’s health and the natural environment for generations to come.”

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