ADAS is currently consulting on an application by the Birmingham Balti Association for EU protected name status for the ‘Birmingham Balti’ as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed. This is unusual since it relates to a recipe for a complete dish, and also because the balti was only invented in the late 1970s.

The application shows the enormous potential scope of the three EU protected name schemes - something that more and more food producers are coming to appreciate.

Until now, most applications have been for simple food products with a single ingredient or at most just a few - and usually the food has been in production for a very long time.

However, the TSG scheme is in fact very flexible and it can be used to create and enhance a market reputation for a wide variety of food products. A “traditional” product need only have been in existence for 25 years and the Regulation lists 17 different eligible categories of food that are eligible for protection, ranging from products as simple as fresh meat to pre-cooked meals and confectionery.

The Birmingham application makes interesting reading since a core aspect of the TSG scheme is a specific method of production and a defined recipe, and yet a Birmingham Balti can contain a very varied range of ingredients. What the application does is propose some boundaries: the meat must be cooked off the bone at high temperatures, the dish must be cooked in vegetable oil rather than ghee, and it must be served in the balti pot.

If the application is approved by the EU, then anyone selling ‘Birmingham Balti’ will have to meet the approved specification that, it is anticipated, will include an annual inspection of the premises on which it is made. Balti meals that do not meet the specification could still be sold under the name ‘balti’ provided that the word ‘Birmingham’ is not included.

” TSG relates to the method of production and ingredients used”

Could a balti made in accordance with the specification in another city be sold as a ‘Birmingham Balti’? The application does not propose any requirement that production should be in a particular place. This reflects a core aspect of TSGs - their uniqueness relates to the method of production and the ingredients rather than the location.

In contrast, place of production is crucial under the other schemes - the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). Nevertheless, there could still be a legal problem for a producer in another city if it used the name ‘Birmingham Balti’, because consumers might be misled into thinking it had been made in Birmingham - rather than simply produced according to the Birmingham recipe.

Currently there are only two registered UK TSGs, for Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spot pork and Traditional Farmed Fresh turkey, but there are more British applications in the pipeline. I believe that food businesses wanting to carve out a reputation for quality and originality will be looking more and more to the use of EU registration schemes such as the TSG.