Artisan Food Law Blog
The milestone for many food producers this month is not Christmas, but 13 December – food labelling day when the food information to consumers (FIC) Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 comes into effect. It’s worth remembering what it’s all about: protecting health and providing information, that’s the stated aim of the FIC, as it appears now to be more affectionately known.
The long awaited new labelling regime seems to be the source of widespread confusion and consternation among food producers and retailers, not to mention restaurants coping with allergen labelling, or at least it is if you believe the trade press. The presence of allergens in food has dominated media coverage, an important change but let’s not overlook the rest.
The FSA’s apparent change of heart on raw drinking milk over the summer earlier this year seemed like a breeze of fresh air, a more rational and reasonable approach to the management of food safety risks looked to be in the making. It now seems that a return to historical paranoia is the order of the day.
On 5 November 2014, this coming Wednesday, the Board of the FSA meets and will discuss ‘Our Approach to ‘Risky’ Foods’, a report prepared by Steve Wearne, the FSA’s Director of Policy. In the report ‘risky’ foods are “those foods that pose, or are perceived to pose, risks that are greater than those posed by the majority of foods that are not subject to specific controls.” Where the authority for defining a group of foods in such subjective terms comes from is unclear, but it seems the FSA is again set on demonising traditional foods which it perceives pose a greater level of risk.
It all rather depends on the country in which you live whether artisan cheese is in the ascendancy or under threat. Happily, in the UK the former is clearly the case, but the picture elsewhere looks mixed at best.
Three contrasting news stories have appeared over recent weeks which consider the future of small scale raw milk cheese production in the US, France and the UK and raise important questions.
The pasteurisation of all milk cannot be justified and raw milk vending machines have a place – say the Food Standards Agency.
The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) consultation undertaken as a part of its review of the controls governing the sale of raw drinking milk and cream closed on 30 April. True to its word, the FSA published the outcome of this consultation last Friday. Steve Wearne, the FSA’s Director of Food Safety, summarises the outcome in a report for consideration by the Board of the FSA later this month. A full response to the comments submitted is expected to be published before 30 July.
The responses – all 536 – were overwhelmingly in support of greater access to raw drinking milk with just four respondents calling for the pasteurisation of all milk. What has the FSA made of them all? Due credit to the FSA for what is, on the whole, good news.
New rules governing the use of the description ‘mountain product’ as an optional quality term for food products coming from mountain areas came into force last month. This is the first optional quality term to be introduced under Regulation (EU) 1151/2012 which aims to highlight products with an added value, but which are not covered under other EU quality labels. The hope is that it will give a boost to farmers in mountain areas.
The publication of the domestic regulations and guidance on the implementation of the food information to consumers Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 (the FIC Regulation) was expected much earlier this year. The general labelling requirements under the FIC Regulation will take effect on 13 December this year and food businesses are understandably anxious in the absence of certainty and clarity surrounding key aspects of the implementation of these provisions. Earlier this month, no doubt in recognition of the level of anxiety shown, Defra circulated a draft version of the guidance. The draft has not, however, been published or made available on the Defra web site and it adds some 16 pages to the guidance published in November 2012.
Sourdough is a spontaneous fermentation of flour and water in which naturally-occurring yeasts and beneficial lactic acid bacteria work in symbiosis to aerate and flavour bread, make nutrients more bio-available and improve digestibility. After a gap of at least two centuries, sourdough bread is making a comeback in Britain. But bread is notorious for not always being quite what it seems. In an echo of 19th century adulteration, some outlets are now putting the sourdough label on loaves that are far from the real thing.
Andrew Whitley, co-founder of the Real Bread Campaign, author of Bread Matters and DO Sourdough – Slow Bread for Busy Lives, argues that ‘Real Sourdough’ needs legal definition via an Honest Crust Act to protect the public from ‘pseudough’.
The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) public consultation on the future availability of raw drinking milk comes to a close in a few days on 30 April. Artisan Food Law has covered many different issues surrounding raw milk over the last 12 months and more, so now seems a good time to bring some key ones together and provide, in no particular order, 10 good reasons for securing the future of raw milk.
A few days of the FSA’s public consultation remain. If you are one of the 77% of people who support the continued sale and availability of raw drinking milk, even if you would personally not choose to drink it, you have a brief opportunity left to let the FSA know. Simply send a note to Freddie Lachhman at the FSA, either by e-mail to RDM@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk or write to him at: Food Hygiene Policy, Food Standards Agency, 1st Floor, Aviation House, 125 Kingsway, London WC2B 6BH.
Make sure the message gets through by 30 April that raw drinking milk is here to stay and the choice whether to consume it must be one which is real and meaningful.