UK Food group Northern Foods has been dealt a blow in its battle to continue to produce Melton Mowbray pork pies. The country’s High Court today (21 December) ruled that an application to restrict production of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies cannot be quashed, and will continue its approval process through the European Commission.

Defra’s application, which was initiated by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, would restrict production of the pies to an area of 1,800 square miles of the East Midlands which includes Leicester, Nottingham and Northampton. 

However, Northern Foods has been arguing that this is an artificial zone. The application also specifies that genuine Melton Mowbray pork pies must be grey in colour and made from uncured pork, despite the fact that the Association’s dominant member and leading commercial manufacturer, Samworth Brothers, produces both cured and uncured pies under the Melton Mowbray name. Samworth Brothers manufactures Melton Mowbray pork pies in Leicester.

Northern Foods said it has been making Melton Mowbray pork pies to traditional recipes for over a hundred years from its sites in Trowbridge, Wiltshire; Market Drayton in Shropshire; and originally in Birmingham.  If the application is approved by the European Commission, it will no longer be able to do so.

Northern Foods said it will be applying to the High Court for permission to appeal today’s decision in the Court of Appeal.

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Carol Williams, company secretary of Northern Foods, said: “This is a case of EU rules being exploited to allow the biggest player in this market to get bigger, at the expense of the consumer. We think it’s anti-competitive, and it’s a sad day for common sense. 

“We’ve been making great Melton Mowbray pork pies for over a hundred years.  Our pies are very high quality and made to traditional recipes, and our customers think that is more important than where they are made. 

“We have fought this challenge all the way on some very clear principles and we will have no compunction about doing the same again.”