EU’s continued influence on UK as jam makers face recipe changes

A jar of artisan strawberry jam

EU's continued influence on UK as jam makers face recipe changes Credit: Nutrition, Food Safety & Health Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication

As EU lawmakers in Brussels look to regulate the ingredients of food sold in EU member countries, costly recipe changes may be inflicted on UK jam makers should they wish to continue trading with the bloc.

It is the percentage of fruit contained in various conserves that is currently being debated, but British manufacturers will be keen to continue exporting to Europe as the world’s largest market for this type of product.

The British market will keep a close eye on the EU’s final decision but it hasn’t stopped various voices from complaining about the EU’s close watch on acceptable food quality.

Catherine McBride, a free market economist asked on Twitter: “Why not let customers decide what they like, and let them buy it, or not. This story encapsulates everything that is wrong with the EU. How many hours have they wasted on this?”

But those on the other side of the argument such as John O’Connell, a global poverty charity worker, has said on Twitter:

“#Brexit’eers are making much of this today. In short, the EU want fruit jam to contain a minimum level of fruit for it to qualify for the name. Apparently, that’s a bad thing in Brexit Britain. And if WE want to sell OUR jam to the EU, we have to make it worthy of the name.”

In any case, both sides must accept that the Brexit vote means that the UK would no longer have a say in this and that the EU are free to regulate its members in this way. An EU diplomat spoke to The Telegraph saying:

“Member states are going bananas over the fruit content percentage on types of jam. What is for sure is that the percentage will rise and that will directly impact British producers and exporters.”

The diplomat added, mocking British government rhetoric on Brexit:  “In this case of our breakfast directives, breakfast means Brexit.”

Although EU and UK rules were aligned on jam fruit content before and after Brexit, the new changes are set to break that alignment and give British producers new hurdles to overcome in order to sell to this huge market. As such, producers would have to increase their product fruit content, at least for export versions, or be considered ‘fruit spread’ rather than ‘extra jam’.

Marmalade will be allowed a lower fruit content if it is made with citrus fruit, but as some EU countries such as Spain use the term marmalade (mermelada) to mean jam, non-citrus ‘marmalades’ will follow new jam rules.

This will give some advantage to UK artisan jam makers who typically use higher fruit percentages in their jams, whereas mass-produced big-brand products tend to go for the bare minimum fruit content to keep costs low.

Receiving some mockery at the time, the UK government’s Department for Business and Trade said on Twitter back in 2016 that: “France needs high quality, innovative British jams & marmalades”. 

This was seen as clutching at straws, with some people asking ‘is this parody?’, as Britain looked for strong trade direction after the Brexit vote. It is especially misguided as France is a huge producer of similar products. In fact, they are the largest in the EU.

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Written by

David Laycock

Dave Laycock has always written. Poems, songs, essays, academic papers as well as newspaper articles; the written word has always held a great fascination for him and he is never happier than when being creative. From a musical background, Dave has travelled the world performing and also examining for a British music exam board. He also writes, produces and performs and records music. All this aside, he is currently fully focussed on his journalism and can’t wait to share more stories from around the world and beyond.


    • Robert Faraday

      12 June 2023 • 12:42

      Lidl and Tesco have both dropped their fruit content over the past five years, unfortunately.

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