When I first started thinking about making and selling preserves, I had no idea how complicated the Rules and Regulations of the whole thing would be. First of all, I had to register myself with the Local Authority. A very nice young woman came out to the Old Chapel one winter’s morning and inspected the kitchen and asked all about the procedures I followed when I made the preserves. I had to have a food safety management scheme, I was required to make my preserves in traditional open pans (box ticked), sterilise the jars, fill them right to the brim, sealed with hot, brand new acid proof lids (box ticked), batch record books kept (another box ticked), all the ingredients stored separately from other household storage etc and so it went on, and on (more boxes ticked). What I was doing seemed to satisfy her however, she granted me a Level 5 Food Hygiene Certificate, so that was Hurdle Number One cleared.
Then I went in to bat with the local Food Safety Officer on the subject of what was required with regard to labelling. That was onerous enough what with stating each and every ingredient in weights at ‘mixing bowl stage’, this in line with the ‘QUID Declaration’ for heaven’s sake, allergens in bold or underlined, even the font size of the print was dictated. When it came to noting the total sugar content in each jar, well, that was not a simple thing either, it meant buying a bit of kit called a refractometer to guage not only the sugar I actually put in the preserves but how much sugar was in the finished product. I had never quite understood how there could be 50g of fruit per 100g and 50g of sugar per 100g and then 62g of sugar overall, but I do now, thanks to the aforementioned refractometer which measured the sugar that went into the preserve and also the sugars in the other ingredients – brilliant!
But all this red tape was getting ridiculous. Many might have given up, but I had the bit between my teeth.
I ploughed on. When I’d Googled ‘refractometer’ the previous week I happened upon the Guild of Jam and Preserve Makers. The extremely encouraging information on their website not only enabled me to purchase my refractometer at a sensible price online but dispensed a whole raft of tips on how to navigate the choppy waters of setting up a preserve-making business. The Guild listed a 15-point guide of each and every thing that needed to be done to comply with the onerous requirements.
Anyway, I think I am there now. I am a fully paid up member of the Guild of Jam and Preserve Makers and I will certainly ask if I need their valued assistance.
I believe all these requirements are in line with EU Regulations, so I blame Brussels. I bet it won’t be simplified post Brexit though!