Brexit fears remain for future of Grimsby's traditionally smoked haddock

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 21 May 2018

Producers of Grimsby’s traditionally smoked haddock say they have lingering concerns that Brexit could open the door to European imitations.

Patrick Salmon, a spokesman for the Grimsby Traditional Fish Smokers Group , was in Parliament as part of a gathering of 30 producers from across the UK showing off their "protected status" foods.

All those at the event – including producers of Cornish clotted cream, Shetland lamb, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Cornish pasties and Stilton cheese – enjoy EU-recognised protection for its location, method or ingredients.

But Mr Salmon, manager of Alfred Enderby Limited, said, despite an address by Food Minister George Eustice, those in Grimsby’s century-old smoking industry were still looking for reassurances from the Government over its protected status after Brexit.

“I’ve found a lot of interest in the room for ensuring that, come Brexit, our food is still protected,” said Mr Salmon, speaking in Westminster.

“We can’t end up having someone from Germany or wherever saying they are producing traditionally smoked haddock. We want to have the protections they have – it needs to be a two-way thing.”

MPs, including Grimsby’s Melanie Onn and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, warned last year that exiting the EU could spell trouble for the country’s protected geographical indication (PGI) status and for the town’s traditional smoke houses.

READ MORE: Here's why people in Grimsby should be having more fishies on their dishies

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) source said ministers valued the "importance" of PGIs and the "strong traditional or cultural connection they have to a particular place".

The department declined to comment on its plans to protect Grimsby's traditionally smoked fish after Brexit.


Smoked haddock being packaged up for delivery after being cured in Grimsby (Image: Rick Byrne)

Only haddock smoked in the traditional way in Grimsby, a method that has been in existence for at least 100 years, can be labelled “Grimsby traditionally smoked fish”.

To retain the PGI status, the town’s smokehouses must follow the method of smoking the fish for more than 12 hours and according to set conditions.

READ MORE: The 13 projects revealed which will help transform docks and Kasbah in 'dream' £3.7m regeneration

The cool air coming from the Humber estuary, as well as the availability of fresh fish from Grimsby Fish Market, is all said to add to the unique taste.

But there are fears that, after exiting the EU, the protection for Grimsby’s traditional smokers could be lost and that other countries could look to make a profit off the Grimsby name.

Ms Onn said she would be calling on the minister to include PGI status in the exit negotiations with Brussels.


Food Minister George Eustice, pictured in Grimsby, met with producers of protected food in Parliament this week

“All we hear from the minister at the moment is, ‘We will create our own version of it’,” said the Labour front bench spokeswoman.

“But that wouldn’t prevent anyone else deciding to use the local name. The uniqueness of the product in this country would be protected by having a UK-specific PGI. But we want to have a brand that is recognised much further afield than that.

READ MORE: Environment Secretary Michael Gove to visit North East Lincolnshire

“I’m happy to go to the minister and ask whether EU recognition of a UK form of PGI is part of the negotiations so regional industries and foods are protected.”

In the meantime, Ms Onn said more needed to be done to “promote” Grimsby’s protected food status.

The UK has 80 protected types of food – compared to Italy’s 320 and France’s 270 – and Grimsby traditionally smoked haddock is the only protected food product in Lincolnshire, despite it being a rurally-dominated county.


The Fishwife traditional fishmongers in Cleethorpe Road, Grimsby

“We have talked locally in the Humber food cluster about how there is very little recognition that in Grimsby we have the only PGI in Lincolnshire,” said Ms Onn.

“It really is quite a unique thing and something to be proud of. It is something we need to promote much more.”

Mr Salmon added: “The protected food status is just one of our gems in Grimsby. We have fantastic seafood processing facilities and one of the jewels in our many jewelled crown is our traditionally smoked fish.”

A spokeswoman for Defra said: “Leaving the EU gives us a golden opportunity to secure ambitious free trade deals while supporting our farmers and producers to grow and sell more great British food."

How to put Grimsby traditionally smoked haddock on the map


Flashback: Richard Enderby, of Alfred Enderby fish smokers, with racks of fish at the premises on Grimsby Docks. He has since sold the business to Patrick Salmon

In Melton Mowbray, the town makes £78 million a year from food tourism, with people coming from all over to visit its pork pie producers.

Here are some of the ideas mentioned in Parliament for raising the profile of Grimsby’s heritage dish:

  • Hold a competition amongst B&Bs for who serves up the best smoked haddock breakfast
  • Come up with a publicity stunt to get the media talking – Melton Mowbray send the Queen a pork pie every Christmas for her to enjoy
  • Organise a seafood festival on the docks, featuring tours of the smoke houses
  • Incorporate the smoke houses into the upcoming transformation of the Kasbah and its new focus as a food destination



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