Today marks the start of the World Cheese Awards. Held annually as part of the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC, it’s a true box of delights for the dedicated cheese lover. Over 1000 square metres of display encompasses nearly 3000 entries, 79% of which are from outside the UK. Make no mistake, when they say it’s the biggest in the world; that’s no lie. And with 80,000 consumers expected to try a nibble or two, everything was looking rosy. But no, there looks to be a fly in the curd that threatens not only this year’s event but future ones as well.
The underlying cause, according to the organisers, is a new Brussels directive. They have appealed to the Food Standards Agency to help overturn the EU ruling that prevents Japan, South Africa and several countries from South America, including Brazil, importing cheese to compete in this year’s Olympics of cheese. But the real problem may simply be DEFRA, which is following the strict letter of the law of the EU directive. The directive follows recent concerns about animal health and the safe handling of milk. Which seems rather stupid given the universal failure to tackle the horsemeat scandal.
Bob Farrand, chairman of the World Cheese Awards, said: “This is extremely sad for several hundred artisan cheese makers around the world. The World Cheese Awards is their global event but these EU regulations are preventing them from entering. Many small rural businesses benefit enormously from winning at the Awards and this country benefits from much needed overseas revenue. It shows yet again the total inflexibility of people in offices in Brussels.”
Warming to his theme, he went on to say: “For more than a decade we have applied for, and have been granted, permission by DEFRA to import artisan cheeses from outside the EU and we have a strong track record of following the correct procedures, including incinerating (what a waste!) all the cheeses after the event. As an organisation we are immensely supportive of British farming and would never entertain any action that placed it at risk.”
|Kilimanjaro Cheese from South Africa, which won Silver at last year’s World Cheese Awards but has not been able to enter this year’s awards|
Clearly he is not a happy chappy and who can blame him? According to Mr Farrand: “The ruling prohibits entry of cheeses from Japan into the EU and yet last June I judged at the Mondiale du Fromage in France and tasted several Japanese cheeses. Clearly other countries don’t kowtow to Brussels in quite the same way we do. It means we’ll have to think seriously about taking the World Cheese Awards abroad in future.”Hopefully common sense will prevail. If red tape did cause this event to be moved out of the UK; that would be an injustice to cheese aficionados everywhere
*This gives me the second opportunity to use the label 'cheese Nazis'