Relations have soured between two of Britain’s finest dairies – over plans to change the recipe for CLOTTED CREAM.
The afternoon tea staple was given ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ (PDO) status in 1998 – the same protection as Stilton cheese and Cumberland sausages.
It means the classic British treat can only be made to a traditional recipe in Cornwall with a fat content of at least 55 per cent and a thick golden crust.
However, trouble is now spreading between two of the county’s finest manufacturers after one launched a bid to have the official criteria changed.
Trewithen Dairy has asked the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to alter the description of clotted cream and the rules that govern how it’s made and labelled.
They say the original PDO listing fails to recognise the “evolution” of clotted cream which is now churned into mass-produced foods such as fudge, ice-cream and custard.
They want the rules “updated” so more foods can bear the “clotted cream” hallmark.
But rival dairy Rodda’s – the country’s largest producer of clotted cream – says the changes would harm the food’s authenticity.
They’re also convinced the amended recipe could see clotted cream sold without its famous crust.
Managing director Nicholas Rodda said: “The golden crust on Cornish Clotted Cream is a proud hallmark of this gorgeous product, loved and recognised the world over.
“We are surprised and disappointed that anyone would want to change that.
“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.”
Rodda’s, which has been churning clotted cream in Redruth for more than 120 years, has called for an urgent meeting with farming minister George Eustice to discuss their concerns.
But Bill Clarke, managing director of Lostwithiel-based Trewithen Dairy, said the original PDO was outdated and vague.
He said: “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.
“I can only guess this protest is another way of getting attention to our wonderful product.”
Neutrals say the dispute could ultimately prove beneficial to both dairies.
When a spat broke out this year about what should be spread first on a scone – cream or jam – it sparked a boost in Cornish clotted cream sales.
Clotted cream, sometimes called clouted cream or Cornish cream, is made by heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly.
The cream content rises to the surface and forms ‘clots’ or ‘clouts’. It’s used in a variety of dishes but is best known as an accompaniment to scones and jam.
Rodda’s, the undisputed giant in the clotted cream world, produces up to 25 tons of clotted cream a day.
The family-run business took off in the 1920s when Willie Rodda was sent to London at the age of 18, with the message: “I have got a piece of Cornwall here and want to share it with you. Would you like to try some?”
This unusual sales technique won Rodda’s contracts with the likes of Harrods and Fortnum and Mason, and provided the first wave of expansion outside of Cornwall.
Trewithen Dairy today denied any suggestion they were seeking to remove the famed golden crust on Cornish clotted cream.
Managing Director Bill Clarke said the existing guidelines don’t cover production methods for bulk quantities of the product.
He said his firm was seeking to clarify and “strengthen” the rules after leading consultations between DEFRA and the Cornish dairy industry.
He said: “We completely agree that the heritage of our wonderful and highly valuable clotted cream should be strongly protected so that it retains the quality and heritage that makes it so instantly recognisable to consumers.
“Clotted cream has been made in Cornwall and Devon using traditional methods for hundreds of years, is deeply rooted in our culture and is a most important asset to our region.
“Trewithen Dairy is immensely proud of its own award-winning clotted cream which has a rich silky texture and depth of flavour in its characteristic crust.
“However, whilst the most important objective here is to retain the product’s authenticity, we must recognise the evolution that clotted cream has undergone to become a national favourite and how it is now commonly included in many other foodstuffs.
“Our proposed amendment is therefore intended to strengthen the existing PDO by bringing clarity to the practice of clotted cream being used in larger products and produced in larger quantities.
“We are keen to do all we can to help DEFRA recognise the development and potential of the product market, all of which will continue to support sales in this vital area of the Cornish food and farming sector.”
Clotted cream traditionally came in small tubs back in 1998 when it achieved protected status but now it is often sold in bulk to be used in products such as ice cream.