In a somewhat surprising use of the EU’s Protected Food Name Scheme, Lorraine Watson of the Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven has applied to have the Scottish delicacy, the deep-fried Mars Bar, protected as the ‘Stonehaven Deep-Fried Mars Bar’. Mrs Watson has applied for the deep-fried delight to be given Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) which would put it in the same class as such stalwarts of the food world as the Cornish Pasty and Arbroath Smokies.
PGI protection is open to products which are “produced or processed or prepared within the geographical area and have a reputation, features or certain qualities attributable to that area” and, if granted, gives legal protection against imitation. However, even if the application is successful, any producer of the deep-fried Mars Bar within the designated area of Stonehaven will be able to use the name if they comply with the specification registered and approved by the European Commission. It’s a move which will no doubt enrage chip shop owners from the Highlands to the Borders, many of whom will no doubt claim to have been the inventors of the snack. They should take heart though: even if a PGI is granted, it won’t stop producers outside of Stonehaven selling deep-fried Mars Bars as long as they don’t use the name ‘Stonehaven Deep-Fried Mars Bar’. However, as well as the legal protection, a PGI does help to raise awareness of a product throughout Europe and who knows, one day we might all look down on the non-Stonehaven version as a poor imitation just as we might with a non-Cornish Pasty.
A few issues for the application immediately spring to mind. One is the hurdle of showing the requisite geographical link between the product and Stonehaven – it certainly isn’t a connection of which we’d been aware and it doesn’t spring to mind in the way ‘Forfar’ and ‘bridie’ might. Another hurdle is the fact that, while the deep frying happens in Stonehaven, most Mars Bars in the UK are actually produced in Slough, Berkshire which may prevent the strict standards of a PGI from being met. Finally, it’s important to note that the Mars Bar is a trademark held by Mars, Inc. who may well have something to say about their trademark being used in this way.
We’ll keep you up to date with progress of this application, although we may have to wait a while - the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs says that it takes as much as two years for a final decision to be reached.