Under EU law, Stilton can only be produced in the counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, where it is thought the cheese originated from.
But Stilton historian Richard Landy claims to have unearthed historical evidence that proves Stilton was produced in the village as early as 1722.
Now The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched a consultation into the matter and is seeking the public’s view on the bid to amend Stilton’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.
A DEFRA spokesperson said: “This consultation has been launched after we received applications from businesses wanting to change to the Stilton product specification. This is an opportunity for all interested parties to now have their say on how this cheese is classified in the future.”
The amendments would permit the cheese to be made from raw milk and extend the geographical region in which the cheese can be made to cover Stilton in Cambridgeshire.
‘Making Stilton in its original home’
MP for North West Cambridgeshire Shailesh Vara told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The villagers are very keen and excited about the prospect of making Stilton in its original home.
“In the whole of Europe, it is the only product that is not allowed to be made in the village that historically manufactured it.”
The historical evidence that Landy has unearthed consists of a pamphlet that dates back to 1722, which links the cheese to the Bell Inn in the village.
But others claim the cheese was sold in the village rather than manufactured there.
Billy Kevan, general manager of Colston Bassett Dairy, which makes Stilton and Shropshire Blue Cheese, told FoodManufacture.co.uk the cheese that was originally made in Stilton village was not a blue cheese but cooked hard-pressed cheese that was similar to Parmesan.
Kevan said: “The official line was that the cheese was sold in the village of Stilton, which is why it adopted the name. They [the village of Stilton] are keen to prove a cheese was made there – there may have been one, but it wasn’t blue Stilton.
‘It wasn’t blue Stilton’
“They’re more than welcome to apply for PDO, we have no issue with that. It’s not down to Stilton it’s down to the European authorities. They have yet to prove that it was the blue cheese made there.
But Vara claims that the village was the first location where the cheese was made and that it was subsequently made in the some of the counties to the west of Stilton.
He said: “People may not be keen on competition but we have to go on evidence.”
If the consultation goes in favour of the village, it will bring jobs and revive the local economy through increased tourism, according to Vara.
He said: “It would be excellent news. It would create more jobs locally and because the cheese is world famous I’ve no doubt it would bring more tourism to the area.
“People would be able to buy the world famous cheese in the place where it was originally produced.”
The consultation closes for comment on May 29.