The use of the word 'mountain' and images of mountains on foods could soon be regulated by EU law.

Brussels is considering a labelling scheme that would give special protection to products from mountain regions.

A 'reserved term' could work in a similar manner to 'free-range', which can only be used if certain criteria and requirements are met.

The EC has carried out an impact assessment and is expected to present its thinking later this year.

If the EC decides to take action, it could develop a full-scale label scheme with a specific mountain food logo similar to the new EU organic label, introduce an optional reserved term for 'products of mountain farming' or simply set guidelines for labels.

Farming was typically more extensive in mountain than in lowland areas and had environmental and cultural benefits, said EuroMontana, an NGO that lobbies for sustainable farming in mountain areas. Farmers should be able to benefit by charging a premium for products, it said.

The concept of 'mountain foods' is well established on the Continent, where 'mountain milk' and 'chocolate' are sold. In the UK, terms such as 'Highland foods' could work, said EuroMontana project manager Marie Guitton.

But one UK food executive warned such a scheme could damage labels such as PDO. "If you start flagging up mountain foods, you are implying they are of superior quality simply because they have been produced up a mountain. I don't think consumers are going to buy that and could lose faith in schemes such as PDO and PGI as a result."