First came the cream tea dispute with its row over the spreading order of fillings – now a skirmish has broken out between two Cornish dairies over clotted cream itself.
The world-renowned product has been classified under European law as a protected designation of origin (PDO) product since 1998 – a status shared by Stilton cheese, Cumberland sausage and soon to be joined by Fal oysters.
Trewithen Dairy, in Lostwithiel, filed an application this month to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with a proposal to change the description of the tourist favourite, as well as the way clotted cream is made and how it is labelled in mass-produced items such as fudge and ice-cream.
Now Rodda’s, the largest manufacturer of the cream in the UK, based in Redruth, has accused its rivals of jeopardising the heritage of the product.
Managing director Nicholas Rodda, said: “We want to protect heritage and the authenticity of traditional foods for future generations.
“Consumers and shoppers rightly expect that when they see Cornish clotted cream on the label of any product that it is made in the traditional way.
“The role of a PDO is to protect the traditional foods. Changing it undermines the whole reason for its existence.”
Trewithen Dairy maintains that the original document is outdated, and updating clotted cream’s PDO would “recognise the history and evolution” of the modern practice of churning it into other foods, as well as being traditionally served on its own in small pots for cream teas.
Bill Clarke, managing director, said that the previous battle over the age-old controversy of what to spread first on a scone gave a boost to the industry, and this new skirmish could do the same.
“I can only guess this [protest] is another way of getting attention to our wonderful product,” he said.
However, he added: “The PDO is currently ambiguous. It’s a very common problem; there are a lot of PDO descriptions that need to be changed.
“It’s important that PDOs are correct so that Trading Standards can genuinely audit the product. They can’t do that unless the description is clear.
“It’s just simply the wording of the PDO, which didn’t accommodate anything to do with bulk clotted cream.
“There is no change; it has been going on for decades. I can reassure everybody that Cornish clotted cream is still traditional.”
Since it was awarded PDO status, only produce made in Cornwall with milk from Cornish cows and a fat content of at least 55%, and cooked using the traditional method that allows it to form a golden crust, can be sold with a “clotted cream” label.
Cornish clotted cream is used in a variety of dishes – Rodda’s has just launched clotted-cream custard – but is best known as an accompaniment to scones and jam.
Rodda’s, which has been producing clotted cream since the 19th century, argues that these changes would tamper with the food’s authenticity and has called for an urgent meeting with farming minister George Eustice, who is also the MP for Camborne and Redruth.