Open my “Horrors Fridge” door and you will see a shelf laden with Artisan Jams and Marmalades. Some are gifts or jars sent through the post.I bought a few, despite their eye watering prices. The majority of the jars in the fridge have one or two things in common. Their total sugar content is below 60% and/or their flavour combinations are not listed as permitted in the Jam and Similar Products Regulations 2003.

Lowering percentages.

In March 2013, DEFRA launched a consultation to reduce the permitted sugar levels for jams, jellies and marmalades from 60% to either 55% or 50%. In October 2013, the implications of deregulation were argued effectively in a parliamentary debate by my MP, creating a media storm about the demise of traditional sweet preserves. Two years later, the response to the consultation remains unpublished, leaving producers and retailers in limbo. The indecision kickstarted a trend for unregulated, poor quality products to flood the market and cause confusion for consumers.

Definitions

New producers, ( and it’s hard to believe some established producers) appear to be unaware of the definitions of jam and marmalade listed in the Jam and Similar Products Regulations 2003. Jam is “A mixture, brought to a suitable gelled consistency, of sugars, the pulp or purée or both of one or more kinds of fruit and water”. Marmalade is “A mixture, brought to a suitable gelled consistency, of water, sugars and fruit pulp….in every case obtained from citrus fruit.” The percentage of soluble solids content for jams, jellies and marmalades must be 60% unless the product is one labelled as reduced sugar jam or marmalade with a permitted percentage of between 25 and 50%.

In the fridge I have jars labelled as marmalade and jam with 30%, 53% and 55%. Some just list “sugar” on the label. These products are sold in a range of outlets from luxurious Department Stores in central London to Farm Shops and online. Jars are marketed as “fresh” or “fruity” in flavour and ” healthier ” with less sugar. My evaluations find them frequently lacking in true fruit flavour and surprisingly over sweet. Many of them have unattractive, muddy colours, pour from the jar and lack the distinctive gelled consistency. Once opened, most have a short shelf life.

Competitions

A roundel declaring Gold, Silver or Bronze on an Artisan’s jar should alert the consumer to a product of distinction. A review of Artisan Awards at this year’s Marmalade Awards in Cumbria, made uncomfortable reading. Perhaps some jars with less than the permitted 60% total sugar content escaped the eyes of an experienced judge? But there was an epidemic of unregulated flavour combinations, and many were given awards. In Annex 2- Schedule 2 of the 2003 Regulations, there is a list of permitted additional ingredients for jam and marmalade. Bearing in mind the fruit in marmalade can only be citrus, none of the following award winners should be retailed as Marmalade. Beetroot Marmalade with Beetroot, Orange and Butternut Squash, Lemon and Olive Oil, Blood Orange, Mango and Passion Fruit, Christmas Pudding, Redcurrant and Port, Blood Orange and Raspberry, Lime and Fig, Strawberry and Tangerine, Caramel Toffee, Blood Orange and Coffee, Seville and Blackcurrant, Zesty Blueberry. On their website, the Marmalade Awards alerts Artisans to check with local Trading Standards regarding the legality of selling products with different flavour combinations. I am left wondering how many of them do follow this advice, given so many of them appear to disregard the Regulations.

Trading Standards

The retailers I complain to, do not think they are responsible for selling correctly labelled and/or real jam and marmalade, even though persistent disregard of the Regulations might lead to a fine of £5000. Trading Standards’ Officers have the authority to educate Artisan producers and their retailers about the Regulations and so protect the consumer. I am unaware of any current activity by Trading Standards in the South West of England or anywhere else in the UK to stem the tide of illicit preserves.

My “Horrors Fridge” will continue to be a repository for Jams and Marmalades. If you live in the UK and come across any jars falling foul of the Regulations, please email me the details via the contact page on this website,

Links
Nottinghampshire Trading Standards Notes

Jam and Similar Products (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Food Standards Agency Guidance Notes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Marmalade Awards

Traditional Preserves

Preserves with correct sugar content and gelled consistency

Lower sugar preserves

Illicit preserves with low sugar and runny consistency

Marmalade

A good example of an artisan winner

April 27th, 2015|Tags: |