The campaign by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association to obtain protected geographical indication status for its pies suffered a major setback this week when the government withdrew its support.

The move follows the threat of legal action from one of the leading pie makers Northern Foods, which claims the government had “misconstrued the purpose of PGI” and did not follow the correct procedure when its supported the application in February.

A DEFRA spokesman confirmed that the government has asked the European Commission to suspend the application as it had received legal guidance that it had not dealt with Northern Food’s objections properly.

PGI designation would have meant that only pies produced to certain recipes within a narrowly defined region would have the right to use the name Melton Mowbray on their products.

Northern Foods company secretary Julian Wild said the company had adjourned its application for a judicial review following the government’s climbdown. He said: “We will now have the opportunity to make further submissions to DEFRA and we fully expect that the application will have to be withdrawn.

“The boundary [designating where pies with the name Melton Mowbray could be produced] was entirely arbitrary and drawn up to accommodate certain businesses. It has nothing to do with the product.

“If the PGI process is used in this way it will lead to a situation whereby a whole range of recipe-based food products with geographic references will only be produced in certain locations by certain manufacturers. Who knows where it will all end?

“Melton Mowbray is just a generic name for a premium pork pie.”

Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association chairman Matthew O'Callaghan said he was confident the application would win through in the end, however.

He said: “We have to preserve our food heritage or traditions will be lost and the big manufacturers will make everything. Long term I am confident that we will be successful.”