Cassoulet bean protected in UK by Brexit deal

The haricot de Castelnaudary can claim the title of being the last French food to be protected in the UK under European rules

4 February 2021
Castelnaudary cassoulet, made with meats including duck or goose confit, pork and sausage, is said to have been invented during the 100 Years’ War
By Connexion journalist

The impact of its protection, however, is likely to be limited as Britons are not very keen on eating haricot de Castelnaudary. The beans were awarded a European Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) protection at the end of December, just before Brexit took full effect.

IGPs, and other EU food protections such as AOPs, approved before 2021 remain in force in the UK under the Withdrawal Agreement. It will not recognise new ones and is developing its own food standards.

The IGP means only beans of a specific kind, grown with certain techniques in the west of the Aude can use the Castelnaudary bean name in the EU – or the UK.

Producers fought for 19 years for the status. Marc Cauhope, vice-president of the growers’ union which led the fight, told The Connexion: “It was an enormous amount of paperwork but we got there.

“For producers, there will not be any changes in the way we produce the beans because we have been meeting the requirements set out in the documents for years.”

The growers claim the bean is the best in the world, with a fine skin which still keeps its form if it is properly cooked. Mr Cauhope laughed when told the IGP meant the bean will be protected under the Brexit WA deal.

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“It is good to know but I must say we hardly export any beans to the UK,” he said.

“There was a time when we did, but that has long gone. Almost all the famous baked beans in the can you eat in England come from South America.”

Competitors from South America and Canada have been using the Castelnaudary name for beans in cassoulets, but will now be banned from this in Europe under the IGP.

Mr Cauhope said: “The main difference is that here in the IGP area we use a system where we cut the plants and let them dry in the sun and the wind for around eight days before we harvest the beans.

“In South America and Canada, they spray plants with weedkiller, and when they have died and dried up, collect the beans.”

The union organises a Fête du Cassoulet in Castelnaudary in August, which typically attracts 50,000 people.

Castelnaudary cassoulet, made with meats including duck or goose confit, pork and sausage, is said to have been invented during the 100 Years’ War. Legend has it that when English troops were besieging the village, a giant stew of dried beans, tomatoes, garlic and preserved meat was cooked to give defenders the strength to break out.

Other south west cities have their own versions of the dish. “There is no protection of the name cassoulet, but if you look at the tin and it includes IGP beans there is a good chance that it will have been made properly with local produce,” Mr Cauhope said.

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