Cumberland campaign

The British government has given the thumbs-up to a campaign to give Traditional Cumberland Sausage the same protection as products such as Champagne and Parma Ham.

Defra has said it believes the application to register the Traditional Cumberland Sausage as a protected food name meets all the necessary criteria.

The decision means the application will now be sent to the European Commission in Brussels. It follows recent moves to register the Cornish pasty for Protected Geographical Indication.

If the application is agreed by the European Commission, only producers in Cumbria will be able to call their sausages Traditional Cumberland Sausages.

The county's famous sausage is likely to be the first meat product in the north of England to be protected in this way.

The five-year campaign has been organised by Made in Cumbria and the Cumberland Sausage Association. John Anderson, Made in Cumbria's food specialist, said: "This is an important development for Cumbrian producers. We want the people who make Traditional Cumberland Sausages in the county to have the same kind of protection that many producers across Europe already benefit from.

"Producers in other areas who have registered their products for protection have also enjoyed greater awareness across Europe. So if the application is successful, Cumbrian producers will have good reason to celebrate."

As well as being made in Cumbria, the application would also mean that Traditional Cumberland Sausages have to meet a number of strict quality criteria. The sausages would need to contain at least 80% meat and be left unlinked. They would also have to be made using a mincer with mincing holes that are a minimum of 4.5mm in diameter, to ensure a rough-cut texture.

The Hairy Bikers Dave Myers and Si King have given their backing to the campaign, signing a petition in favour of the application. Myers, who lives in Cumbria, said: "Traditional Cumberland Sausage has been part of my life since I was a kid. We've got access to really high-end, good food up here - to me symbolised by the Cumberland Sausage.

If you go down south everybody's got it on the menu, but it's not Cumberland Sausage, it's a washed-out affair. It's a great sausage and it deserves to be protected. We don't want the fake ones. It's a special brand, so let's keep it right."

Cumbrian producers are concerned that the growing popularity of Cumberland sausage has led many large food producers to mass-produce it and sacrifice its quality and taste.

Some shops and restaurants are selling so-called Cumberland sausages with a meat content as low as 45%, containing emulsified rather than coarse-cut meat and selling the sausage in thin links rather than thick continuous lengths.