CHURCH FÊTES might never be the same again following advice from the Churches Legislation Advisory Service (CLAS) that EU regulations forbid the re-using of old bottles to sell jam, marmalade or pickle.
Following an inquiry, CLAS, which is an ecumenical body that offers advice to all the churches, checked with the Foods Standards Authority and was informed that EU regulations state that although old bottles can be reused if the jam is being given as a personal gift they may not be used if the item concerned is ‘being placed on the market’.
General Secretary of CLAS, Frank Cranmer, told CEN that he understands the phrase ‘placing on the market’ to include both selling bottles at a church fête and giving them away free in a raffle.
He agreed that the phrase is open to interpretation but said when he contacted the WI to see what they thought he found that their understanding is the same as his. Jam-jars must not be sold in any circumstances or given away except as a purely personal gift.
Environment Secretary Owen Patterson has called for ‘common sense to prevail’. The FSA has said that enforcement of the regulation is a matter for local authorities. Health inspectors could well take a different view of the matter resulting in a considerable degree of confusion.
Frank Cranmer approached the FSA for further clarification and received the following advice: “EU food regulation only permits the re-use of packaging if the food contact material is specifically manufactured for that purpose. Jam-jars are not manufactured for re-use. However, we are not aware of any evidence indicating that the re-use of jam-jars presents a food safety concern for consumers in terms of migration from chemicals from jam-jars into food.
“If jam-jars are re-used in the home or by charities, it would be advisable to use new jars rather than those that have been used for some time to minimise the risk of any materials used in manufacturing crossing into food. Good hygiene needs to be observed in cleaning jars and all food preparation. It is for local authorities to decide how they enforce these rules with respect to charities.”
Frank Cranmer says although this sounds more like advice on best practice rather than about mandatory requirements it is probably safest not to re-use jam-jars. He suggests that although it is easy to sterilise the jars, lids may present more of a health risk.
Critics of the ruling have attacked it on the grounds of cost and the importance of recycling.