Anyt hing that gets published today with the backdrop of the atrocity in Woolwich yesterday naturally pales into insignificance - none more so than the new jam regulations. It is hard to comprehend from the centre of a loving family life and a rural location, both the force that drives these extremists and the absolute devastation to the family of the victim. Believing their son/partner to be safe in this country their horror can only be the greater. Man's inhumanity to man. We can't fix anything but we can all try harder to make it still worth living and loving.
In other news, I have been quiet of late as I have been busy being Matron in my pop-up nursing home. My son Rob, who works with us, recently had an operation on his spine and we all decided that he would recuperate here with me and Trev, in a child-free zone. No jumping on the bed or picking up of toddlers required for the forseeable future. Oscar and Samuel come to visit with Mummy but seem unphased that Daddy is in bed at Nanny's. We are half way through the bed rest phase with another two weeks to go before he will return home to complete the 12 week convalescence. This may seem a tough call to those contemplating this surgery - but believe me the relief from constant pain and daily morphine is already worth it - and to fair it is only lying around in bed reading and watching films! The responsibilities of being Matron are, however, immense.
To say the surgeons are fantastic is an understatement - thank you to all.
Now, here's the thing. The Defra Consultation on the changes to the jam regulations in England has now closed and I would like to say what I feel about it. It seems to me that these changes have come about with a certain amount of stealth. It is being published that Michelle McKenna, 'Clippy', has single-handedly brought about these changes so that her 'conserve' can be sold as a proper jam at 55g sugar solids rather than 60g which is the current law. She wants to do this because she is using a large proportion of apple in her preserves which, she says, makes it unnecessary to include as much sugar to achieve the set of a traditionally made jam, rendering her product a more healthy option and that there is currently no legal definition that fits her product. However, her products also include added pectin so they would set regardless of the apple. In fact, if she took out even more sugar she could be even more healthy and sell her jam as 'Reduced Sugar Jam' under the current regulations at 50g sugar solids or less.
Nevertheless she says she has lobbied and campaigned for the past few months and has succeeded, on her own, to get Government to listen and for changes to the Jam and Similar Products (England) 2003 to be written. As she says on her Facebook page - not bad for a single mum ( I am not sure why that is relevant - we are all single in life ) She has managed to engage the support of Vince Cable in all of this who has said that the 'ridiculous red tape' surrounding the jam regulations must be swept aside in the interests of commercialism. Not too worried about the safe preservation of food then? Clippy has also gained the support of Arlene McCarthy MEP - an even more astonishing achievement - see her views here.
In response to this proposal over the last few months - about half the time it has taken for Clippy to change the World - I have written to Vince Cable's two parliamentary offices twice and received not one reply over these four attempts, not even the usual acknowledgement of 'thank you we will reply sometime never' variety. I have emailed Defra twice - the second time requesting the background information to the changes to the regulations, under the Freedom of Information Act - no response, no acknowledgement etc etc. I have contacted my MP, Alan Duncan, who has responded to me and also written to Defra, I don't think he has had a reply either.
All of this tells me that there is more to this than we are being told. It is already a done deal and somebody has made the Clippy product a figurehead to achieve changes to British Law who otherwise would not have been likely to do so. The Consultation is a sham - if you read my two previous blogs I go into detail why. It is pointless wasting any more time on it.
What I am going to do with my Guild of Jam and Preserve Maker's hat on, is to ask Richard Matthews, our TS advisor if we, as artisan producers can label our jam accordingly. Something like 'Joe Bloggs traditionally made artisan jam' followed by whatever description of fruit content you care to put, or have room for. I urge you to go to Tesco or Morrisons and look at a jar of Clippy's 'conserve' and see what she has been allowed to get away with on her labels and we fight back in a similar vein. The bottom line is virtually any fruit/sugar content will be able to go into a jar of 'jam' in the future and as artsians who must put the correct percentages to achieve a set and safe preservation of the contents at ambient temperature, we are going to be at a greater disadvantage over pricing and perception of quality. I propose to offer a Guild of Jam and Preserve Makers accreditation of quality for traditionally made preserves to enable the consumer to easily identify what they are buying and how about we lobby parliament for an Artisan definition in the jam regulations? By all accounts it is quite easy to do and shouldn't take long . . . how about it Alan Duncan - it didn't cause Vince much trouble.
I feel quite bullish about this, but after all, in the future most jam will require refrigeration and I guess will no longer deserve the descrition 'preserve'. Another little bit of our heritage eroded and destroyed for no good reason other than profit. I had better change the name to The Guild of Jam and Refrigerated Product Makers.
Sorry - forgot to add file!
Further to my most recent blog I am attaching the Consultees list that names the people and companies supposedly working wirth Defra on the new jam regulations. When all of this was first announced I registered on the Defra website to be notified when the consultation opened - both as Rosie Makes and The Guild of Jam and Preserve Makers. Needless to say I was not sent the email that was promised, and we are not on the Consultee list. I also emailed Vince Cable's office on the official contact form, both at his surgery and parliament - no reply.
I have attached the Consultee list for you to see and I have listed the companies and individuals who have anything to do with jam, in red. For the rest, I have researched what the companies do and there are some surprising inclusions for a consultation over Jam and Similar Products - have a look through. Indian foods, chocolate manufacturers, South African Biltong, frozen fish and meats, Pizza Hut etc etc.
Only 35 of the 129 Consultees are jam related and before she went on holiday Vivien Lloyd rang 13 of the 35 and only one had had a letter about the consultation. The rest were unaware of the situation. Obviously Defra are intending to rubber stamp the proposed changes and the Consultee list is cosmetic only, as very few of the Consultees have actually been consulted.They are assuming that no-one will look at this or take any notice of what is happening. Who are Defra anyway, to be qualified to make these decisions - who is actually doing this? Is it a committee, an individual - a government minister or department - how does it work?
21 of the 129 Consultees are honey producers.
The decision on the new regulations are going to be taken by people and companies that ARE PREDOMINATELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE INDUSTRY.
To prevent this YOU need to make a representation to Defra via the official form which can be found on their website - you have until 22 May to do this. Please do not let these new laws be adopted through sheer apathy - you have a right to make representation. MAKE A NOISE!
There has been much in the news and on Twitter recently regarding the proposal bt Defra to change the law for Jam and Similar Products.(England) 2013.
Now, if you are an Artisan or commercial manufacturer you must go to the Defra website, please, and register your views before the closing date for the consultation which is 22 May 2013.
If you an enthusiastic amateur it would be great if you could spare the time to do the same - we are in danger here of losing our heritage and tradition for the sake of commercialism. There was a very good article in The Mail on Sunday last week by Valerie Elliott setting out what is going on. The article can be found here - please read it as it explains what is happening really well. You can then go to the Defra website and make your views known here
I am going to formulate my response to the consultation over this weekend but fundamentally it will be based on a letter I composed to send to Defra when I first heard about these proposals. I will provide a link for you to read it but I won't actually be sending it as I need to reply to the specific questions in the consultation. It will tell you, however, how I feel about the situation. I have also put a link to the current laws for you.
Vivien Lloyd, who also features in the article, is running a petition which you can sign here. Just click on the big jar of jam and it will take you through to where you can add your name to the petition - please do.
Please do your bit for British Jam.