A few weeks ago, I was invited by the lovely people from Discover The Origin to a cruise on The Thames. The evening started with a welcome drink, followed by a delicious dinner created by Salt Yard Group’s Executive Chef, Ben Tish.
Funded by the EU, Discover The Origin is promoting five key European products: Bourgogne Wines, Parma Ham, Douro Wines, Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and Port. The menu was a delightful selection of dishes made from Parma Ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese paired with Bourgogne and Douro wines, not forgetting a great sampling of Port just before we (sadly) had to disembark.
We had the chance to meet representatives from each of the regions who spoke with passion about their products and their love of food. Good food that is. Parma ham prides itself of being an all-natural product made from only four ingredients, pork, salt, air and time. Parmigiano-Reggiano is handmade by craftsmen using traditional methods handed down over more than eight centuries. The mood for the evening was certainly about quality rather than quantity, something that fits perfectly with the flexitarian philosophy.
All the products Discover The Origin is campaining for share qualities of excellence, tradition, innovation plus natural and fair production. They are all produced in small regions and are unique to those areas. They also carry a guarantee of their provenance and quality: PDO for Parma Ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, AOC for Bourgogne Wines and DOC for Port and Douro Wines.
As Discover The Origin points out, “any food which bears the coveted PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) stamp or drink which has the AOC or DOC stamp, more often than not has also been produced for centuries by local artisans employing traditional methods that have been handed down from generation to generation. These are people who care passionately about what they do, and who combine modern technology with traditional methods only where this will enhance and not detract from the end product in any way.”
Traceability and chain of custody in our food system are today more important than ever. But we have become complacent. Very often we buy food trusting that what is on the label matches what is in the product. Unfortunately, very often it is not so. The horse meat scandal has not only taught us that labels are cosmetic (often we have no idea what is actually on our plate) but also that our food system has such a complicated supply chain that meat could travel through several countries before being processed for consumption.
Which? magazine highlighted in February that food standard checks and testing are decreasing. Last month they also published some disturbing findings on food fraud including takeaway meats being adulterated with other meat. Our entire food supply chain has fallen victim to food fraud. Which? lists 10 foods commonly tempered with. It includes fruit juices, rice, fish, olive oil, cheese, manuka honey, chicken, prawns and scallops, alcohol and ham. Manuka honey provides a striking example as 10,000 tonnes are sold worldwide a year while New Zealand only produce 1,700 tonnes a year.
Traceability and chain of custody is paramount in restoring trust in our food system. This is why campaign such as Discover The Origin are so important. Next time you go shopping look out for the PDO, AOC or DOC stamps. You will be rewarded by the quality and guaranteed of its provenance.
Do visit Discover The Origin to find out more about Bourgogne Wines, Parma Ham, Douro Wines, Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and Port. If you are going to Taste of London, The Good Food Show Summer or Foodies Festival make sure you stop by their stand to sample all their delicious products.