Obwarzanek to be protected by the EU

The Ministry of Agriculture recently applied to the European Commission to add obwarzanek, a baked snack similar to pretzels, to the list of regional products protected by the EU. If the application is not vetoed by any of the member countries, Krakow bakers will get a certificate of Protected Geographical Indication. Then only snacks produced in this city will be called obwarzanek. The certificate is likely to be granted in early 2009 as EU procedures take a lot of time.

The 40-page application to the EU includes descriptions of the shape, color, taste and baking process of traditional obwarzanek as well as its history. The bakers have to prove that their product is unique and characteristic for this region. According to their evidence, the snack was mentioned for the first time in the year 1394 in a summary of Polish royal court, spending together with its Latin name circinellos. The application also states that obwarzanek should be between 12 and 17 centimeters in diameter, weigh 80 to 120 grams and its color should range from golden to light brown.

An obwarzanek is usually covered with salt, poppy or sesame seed. In Krakow there are 14 major producers of this regional snack and their production reaches 200 thousand pieces daily in the summer. If the application succeeds, this will be the second Polish regional food product protected by the EU. Last June sheep cheese called bryndza from the mountain region of Podhale was granted protection. Several other products, including lisiecka sausage and another sheep cheese called oscypek, are waiting for their protection applications to be sent to Brussels.

A list of traditional Polish food prepared by the Agriculture Ministry contains 369 products, 24 of them from Malopolska region, of which Krakow is the capital. Producers of some of the foods will try to repeat the success of regional products like prosciutto di Parma ham or Roquefort cheese. France and Italy are the leaders in the number of regional foods on the EU list with 160 each. The Czech Republic leads among the new EU members with 10 products already recognized. Of the other Central and Eastern European countries, only Poland and Slovenia managed to get one certificate each.

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