THE humble Waterford blaa has taken its place on Europe's elite menu of protected foodstuffs.
The move means that government officials can now crack down on imposters who try to cash in on the growing popularity of the floury bap from the southeast.
The blaa has secured coveted EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status more generally reserved for internationally famous brands such as Italy's Parma ham or Parmesan cheese.
Bakers in the southeast were jubilant yesterday as news broke that their blaas are now on the top table of European foodstuffs. They have spent the last four years seeking PGI status.
Made from flour, salt, yeast and water, the blaa was introduced to Waterford by the Hugenots in the 17th century, and has a unique floury white top to protect it during baking.
Michael Walsh, a third-generation baker of M & D Bakery in Waterford, said they were delighted at the news which was a great boost locally.
The blaa is made without preservatives or added fats meaning it's got a short shelf life.
However, Michael and his brother Dermot finally developed a successful freezing technique for the rolls last year.
This has allowed them to sell blaas at markets and into the catering trade all over Ireland – and they are also now exporting them to Irish pubs in Paris.
"People outside Waterford didn't have a clue what blaas were before we started looking for PGI status for them, but now customers come looking for them," said Mr Walsh. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney praised local breadmakers M&D Bakeries and Hickey's Bakery in Waterford, Barron's Bakery from Cappoquin and Kilmacow Bakery in Co Kilkenny for working together to achieve it.
"I hope the achievements of the Waterford blaa bakers will encourage other producer groups to come together and work with my department to get more products recognised," he said.
Feta cheese and Cornish pasties are among the products which already enjoy similar EU protection, but few Irish products have made the cut, with the exception of Connemara Hill lamb, Timoleague brown pudding, Imokilly Regato cheese and Clare Island salmon.