Politicians back Birmingham food bid

A bid by the Birmingham Balti Association to gain the European Union’s coveted Traditional Speciality Guaranteed status has gained approval in the European Parliament. 

After being successfully steered through the UK objection period, the application to promote and protect the unique nature of the ‘Birmingham Balti’ is now being considered by the European Commission and has the support of Lib Dem Euro MP Phil Bannion, who has launched a petition on his website to support the bid. He said ,  “I have been a massive balti fan since I was a student at Birmingham University.  Curry now rivals fish and chips as Britain’s national dish, but the Birmingham balti has a unique and distinctive character all of its own. It would be a shame if the word ‘Balti’ lost its distinctive meaning.I am strongly backing this bid and have launched a petition to the Commission in support.”

Successful UK bids for EU Traditional Speciality Guaranteed status so far include Farm Fresh turkey and Gloucestershire Old Spot pork, while Italy has successfully registered Pizza Napoletana and Mozzarella cheese.

The man behind the bid is Balti enthusiast and Press correspondent, Andy Munro, the chair of the Birmingham Balti Association and editor of the Essential Street Balti Guide. He and a number of Birmingham allti restaurant owners decided to launch a bid for TSG status after becoming concerned at the way the term ‘balti’ was being used generically for curry in other parts of the country and abroad.

Andy Munro said: “The Birmingham Balti is a fantastic and unique fusion of Pakistani and British culture developed in Birmingham 30 years ago by a Pakistani chef. It gained rapid popularity and has become Birmingham’s signature dish attracting worldwide publicity from Australia to America (even featuring in the New York Times).

“As such, it is very important economically to Birmingham but, over a period of time, we have noticed the term ‘Balti’ was being diluted to a generic term meaning ‘curry’, no longer reflecting the original dish still served here in Birmingham. 

“The ‘Birmingham Balti’ TSG status application seeks to address this by highlighting and protecting the authenticity of the original dish and the way it is cooked.”

“We are optimistic that we will achieve our goal. We have successfully come through the ‘objection period’ in the UK and the application is now being looked at by the Commission. If after six months they decide to come down in favour, there is a final three month objection period for other EU countries to object if they wish. However, I would like to think that, for example, a country like Greece wouldn’t object … unless, of course, we decided to do a Balti Meat Moussaka!”