Since we took on the role with Trading Standards under their Primary Authority Partnership we have been fairly — or more accurately, unfairly — battered by artisans who are upset that we have to advise them of the Law and Regulations. ‘Who are you to tell me what to do’ being the general tone.
Before we invest more of our time in this process would you like to put forward your point of view? We have a meeting with Trading Standards next week and it would be useful to be able to give them some pointers for the future.
It would seem that most people want the Jam & Similar Products ( England ) 2003 to just go away. That is, if they knew about them in the first place. The simple quiz that we ran a few weeks ago generated a pass rate of just 30% with most not even having the most basic knowledge of the requirements of the Law. This doesn’t apply just to producers by the way, most of the individuals involved in the industry seem to have no understanding either.
So having no legislation for artisan production — which we have been told by some is just red tape anyway — means no protection for the consumer. Should it just be buyer beware?
How would you decide whether to put allergens on or not? How would you know what they are? If someone wants to buy marmalade or jams with horseradish, carrot cake, vinegar, milk, laver, anything-you-like, then should it be possible for that to be a thing?
Sugar, no-sugar, some sugar, sweeteners — but we don’t have to tell you how much, or what they are because there are no Regulations. What about durability, storage conditions, labelling requirements, weights and measures?
Let’s assume that this is what everyone wants, then how do we go about achieving it? Who is the ‘someone’ that needs to address it? How are you going to approach the powers that be to convince them that this is the way forward and ‘what everyone wants’?
You — someone — someone with the time to spare away from their business — someone you will need to pay — will probably need to organise you into a representative body, one that can have dialogues with Trading Standards, Environmental Health, Food Standards Agency, Food Information for Consumers, Health & Safety and above all Defra. A body to put forward your views and to be effective in making the artisan production in the United Kingdom the best that it can be. A body that can truly work for you and make significant progress on your behalf.
That’s who we think we are.
Our Industry Watch today concerns Sugar.
Villified and demonised as it is at the present time, ordinary sucrose has been in use since the 6th century and therefore cannot be at the forefront of the massive health issues we have had in the last forty years. It is vital as a food preservative, it is inert, is one of the only foodstuffs on sale with no ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ dating.
We could be self sufficient in sugar production in this island, sugar beet farmers quietly get on with growing their harvest to be refined into the bags of sugar on the shelf by brands like Whitworths and Silver Spoon. This doesn’t mean that Tate & Lyle’s cane sugar is significantly different — it is all sucrose — it just means it hasn’t travelled as far.
Preservers should learn the power of this natural plant-based preservative and ensure that any modifications that they make to time-honoured recipes because ‘people don’t want to eat sugar’ ensures that they are still preserving the ingredients. There is something in me which whispers away that if you take out so much sugar that the product must be refrigerated then you are no longer preserving.
Jams and Similar Products, as per their regulations, are intended for storage at ambient temperature — if those regulations are not adhered to then the product cannot be known as ‘Jam’ or any of the permitted alternatives in the Law.
Let us not lose these ancient skills of being able to control and preserve harvest at ambient temperature — they are more important than you may think.