The European Union has specific schemes aimed at the promotion and protection of specific names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs. These schemes were enacted in order to ensure that certain food products retain their traditional production practices, and are still produced in their designated place of origin. With this respect, it is sad to see that Maltese foodstuffs have not been included in these schemes since Malta joined the EU in 2004.
These three European Union schemes of geographical indications and traditional specialities are known as protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI), and traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG). Such legislation first came into force in 1992, and while there is no obligation by national governments to include any foodstuffs in these schemes, the main aim is that this law would protect the reputation of the regional foods, promote rural and agricultural activity, and help producers obtain a premium price for their authentic products.
In addition, this law guarantees an elimination of unfair competition and misleading of consumers by non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of different flavour – as an example, consumers are guaranteed that Parmigiano will always be made in the Italian region of Reggiano using artisinal methods. You may find other types of Parmesan Cheese on the market, but it is illegal to sell Parmigiano-Reggiano anywhere in the world unless it is produced in this Italian region. In additional, while there are several brands of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the taste is similar since they have to be produced by the same method to be allowed to sell under that name.
Consumers will be surprised at how many popular products are protected under one of the above three schemes. However, if you stop and think for a second, you would not imagine buying a substitute to these foodstuffs as there is nothing better than the original. Some examples include:
Cheeses: Feta from Greece, Stilton from the UK, almost all cheeses from France (Roquefort, Camembert, Brie), Dutch Cheeses (e.g. Gouda and Edam), Mozzarella di Bufola from Italy
Hams and Sausages: Most cured meats from Italy (Parma Ham, Mortadella, Bresoala, Speck), Chorizo from Spain, Most sausages from Germany (Nurnberger Bratwurst)
Olives and Olive Oils: Kalamata Olives from Greece, most Olive Oils from the Mediterranean Basin
Beers: Czech and German beers
Regional Breads, baked goods and confectionery – Waterford Blaas from Waterford (Ireland), Cornish Pastry from Cornwall (UK), Loukoumi Geroskipou from Cyprus (Cypriot Turkish Delight),
Fruit and Vegetables: Bramley Apples from the UK, Peaches and Nectarines from Romagna (Italy), Asparagus from Landes (France).
Spirits: Porto from Porto (Portugal), Ouzo from Greece, Scotch and Irish Whiskeys, Cognac from France
Others: Aceto Balsamico di Modena (Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Italy)
As of 2014, there were 1,241 recognised products, of which 266 (21.4%) are from Italy, 217 (17.4%) from France, 179 (14.4%) from Spain, 125 (10.1%) from Portugal and 78 (6.3%) from Germany. The full database of registered products can be found here. There is also a separate database that is used for spirits, called E-Spirit Drinks.
Malta does not seem to have any product registered under this scheme, although a legal notice indicated that the Gozitan sweet oranges (Lumi Laring ta’ Ghawdex) have been listed, yet they do not appear on the EU’s database. However, Maltese wines have been listed in the separate wine portal called E-bacchus.
I am confident that the inclusion of Maltese foodstuffs in such a scheme would have great benefits to the local agriculture industry, as well as to other Maltese food industries that would like to preserve the integrity of the products that they are selling. So I am proposing the following list of Maltese foodstuffs that the government may wish to apply for protection:
- Sfineg ta San Guzepp (Rabat, Malta)
- Lumi Laring t’Ghawdex (Gozitan sweet oranges)
- Gbejniet (Maltese Cheeselets)
- Maltese Ricotta
- Frawli ta l-Imgarr (Mgarr Strawberries)
- Hobza tal-Malti (Maltese Bread, especially the one from Qormi)
- Pastizzi and Qassatat
- Maltese Potatoes
- Zalzett Malti (Maltese Sausage)
- Maltese Liqueurs (Prickly Pear, Pomegranate, Orange, Lemon, Honey)
- Torta tal-Marmorat
- Qaghaq ta’ l-Appostli (Apostle’s Ring Bread)
- Qaghaq tal-hmira (Sweet Yeast Rings)
- Qaghaq ta l-ghasel (Honey Rings)
Feel free the suggest more typical Maltese food below!!