Apparently the EU is taking on the combined might of the WI and the Church of England over the humble jam jar. A whole crop of stories have appeared this week suggesting that "new EU rules" ban the re-use of glass jars and mean the end of traditional fund-raising as we know it (EU fine for Home-made Jam Makers, Jumble Sale Jams Face Scrutiny, Anger Spreads over EU Fines Threat for Reusing Old Jam Jars)
But do these stories pass the wrinkle test?
The regulations referred to apply to commercial food businesses, so wouldn't be relevant to jams and preserves for your own use or given as gifts. Fundraising events, fetes etc. are hardly commercial ventures and simply aren't in the same league.
Nor are these "new rules" - they've been around since 2004 and 2006, and if they haven't affected you yet there's no reason why anything should change.
The issue is the integrity of the packaging - commercial producers can ensure this by using brand new jars that meet the agreed standard. Most glass jars aren't designed to be re-used and so second or third hand jars might not be as airtight or robust. If you're just making a few jars of chutney for friends, family, and perhaps the church fete, this isn't a big issue. But if you're doing it for commercial gain, your customers have the right to expect the highest and most professional standards.
I've had the privilege of running a few food safety courses for Women's Institute groups. The Institute is highly professional, and has chosen to adopt the same standards as a commercial business when it comes to food safety. Members involved in food production have regular training and refresher courses, and I think its highly commendable that the Institute are advising members to meet this particular standard too. But that doesn't mean that every voluntary group or church fundraising committee has to do the same.
If you're in any doubt as to whether your jam-selling activities could be viewed as a commercial enterprise, the only opinion that matters is that of your local environmental health department. They are the ones responsible for enforcing food safety legislation, and will always be happy to offer advice and guidance.
So there it is - no new EU rules, no "ban" on home-made jam makers, no fines for re-using old jars. Unless you're a jam company.
And I'll be back in the brambles this weekend with the kids picking yet another batch of blackberries. Keep on jamming.
I've been working in hospitality and training one way or another for over 25 years. I love helping small hospitality businesses to develop. Follow me and my continuing training adventures here...