The EU Protected Food Name scheme was introduced in 1993 to protect traditional and regional foods and drinks whose origin and authenticity can be guaranteed. These ingredients and products are protected legally from imitation throughout the European Union and with some countries outside the EU through reciprocal agreements. Wines have their own scheme and are classified separately, although they still carry the same PDO/PGI ratings.
Some question the limitations these rules place on food markets and the immoveable restrictions on production that legal recognition attracts. However, there are significant benefits from raised consumer awareness of speciality foods, as well as the support these rules give to rural areas and farmer incomes.
Some European countries – notably France, Italy, Spain and Portugal – already had systems for protecting wines and foods in place. These systems now run concurrently with the EU systems and the decision over which classification to use on labels is left to the producer. There are differing degrees of uptake of the EU labels across the various countries – this is explained further in our guide to each country’s system.
With very few exceptions, all of the foods that were protected under the individual systems have also been grandfathered into the new EU system, regardless of whether they fit the specifics of the new, tougher regime.