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Fund-raising cooks in a pickle

05 October 2012


THE Chapter of Portsmouth Cathedral was alarmed to discover this month that new food-hygiene regulations apparently forbid the sale, in re-used jam jars, of marmalade, chutney, and other preserves, which are the staple of many church fund-raising events.

A circular from the Churches' Legislation Advisory Service (CLAS) began with the warning: "This looks like a spoof, but it's not."

It continued: "We contacted the Food Standards Agency, and were told that this is, in fact, the case. You can re-use jam jars at home, and you can use them for private gifts to friends: what you are not allowed to do is to make jam, put it in re-used jam jar,s then either sell it or even give it away at a public event."

The circular cited "Guidance Notes for Food Business Operators on Food Safety, Traceability, Product Withdrawal and Recall" from the FSA. It also warned that the Women's Institute had "told us the same". (The WI said yesterday that it had recently received a "flurry" of calls pertaining to jam-jar use. It was awaiting clarifica- tion from the FSA on the matter.)

Help may yet be at hand. A spokesperson for the Food Standard Agency said yesterday that the interpretation of the regulations was the responsibility of local authorities, who would decide what constituted a "food business".

"With an occasional event like a fund-raiser, our advice would be that that would probably not be considered to be a food business," she said. "So those planning the sale of preserves should check what the view the local authority takes of the regulation."

Canon Michael Tristram of Portsmouth Cathedral said on Wednesday: "On realising that this was not a belated April Fool's joke, I was very anxious, not only from the fund-raising point of view for all our churches, but also because it goes against the green agenda of recycling. While understanding that all food sold at our fêtes and fairs must be safe, we jam- and marmalade-makers sterilise our jars as a matter of course. Let's hope that common sense prevails."

The view of the Food Standards Authority

"ANY food packaging used must be compliant with the European regulation (1935/2004, Article 3) which sets out the safety criteria for food packaging. Though it can be assumed that originally the jars met these criteria, as they were fit to sell at the retail level, once sold and their constituent food has been consumed, the required chain of documentation which shows they are compliant is broken. Thus it would be impossible to demonstrate to the relevant authorities that the re-used jars were compliant, unless the jars were knowingly manufactured to be reused, and within a closed loop distribution system like milk bottles. However, only the courts can decide whether in particular circumstances an offence has been committed."

The Agency has guidance on the re-use of food contact materials, which is to be found at: http://www.food.gov.uk/ safereating/ chemsafe/packagingbranch/packagingreuse



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