In this issue - the campaign for real 'Stilton' - flexibility in cheese production - sourdough or pseudough - Brexit impact on food businesses - and a full news round up

Newsletter No. 30   Spring 2016

Joe Schneider, Stichelton cheesemaker.
Joe Schneider, Stichelton cheesemaker

The campaign for real ‘Stilton’

Stichelton Dairy is the only producer of real ‘Stilton’ using raw milk and traditional methods. Ironically, it is precisely for this reason the name 'Stilton' cannot be used and the cheese is called Stichelton – the earliest known name for the village of Stilton. It also means all the advantages of having protected designation of origin (PDO) status as an EU protected food name are denied. Defra has bowed to pressure from the big dairy processors, which own the Stilton producers, and will not agree to the use of raw milk. All cheese presently sold as Stilton is made from pasteurised milk.
Slow Food is backing Stichelton Dairy in its campaign to have the specification for Stilton changed to permit the use of raw milk. A petition has been launched for the return of traditional raw milk Stilton and already almost 2,500 signatures have been collected. Stilton producers and Defra are being asked to amend the specification of Stilton to allow the use of raw milk. Slow Food has also created a raw milk Stilton Presidium and seeks to open debate on the use of raw milk.
Make a start in adding your voice to the call for a change – sign the petition!

Artisan cheese and hygiene policy

Artisan cheese in productionA new study undertaken by Artisan Food Law examined the impact of 'flexibility' within the EU food hygiene regulations for artisan cheesemakers. Stringent rules regulating industrial food production are necessary, but when it comes small scale food producers, such as artisan cheesemakers, who exercise direct control over the whole of the production process these controls are disproportionate.
Some concession is made for small scale food producers in the Hygiene Package in the form of 'flexibility' which sounds like a great idea. It involves, however, a regulatory system of derogations or exemptions, adaptations and exclusions beyond the comprehension of all but the most committed legal mind. In practice, few of those involved have any real knowledge or understanding about how the system works.
Artisan cheese producers in the UK are better placed than most in the EU. The Specialist Cheesemakers Association has established a Primary Authority arrangement, a model which ensures a consistency of approach in the application of the rules and which may perhaps profitably be adopted elsewhere in Europe.

Sourdough or pseudough?

The popularity of sourdough bread is now such that supermarkets and industrial bakers are looking for a slice of the action and have launched their own white, brown and rye versions. These fake versions, however, are no match to the real thing and could have potentially serious health consequences.
Vanessa Kimbell explains that the traditional way of making sourdough is thousands of years old. It is made with a culture made of water and flour in which naturally occurring wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria have been nurtured into populations sufficient to leaven dough which is then slowly fermented. The result is a sourdough bread which possesses unique properties of digestibility, bioavailability of minerals and the potential to help manage blood sugar levels.
The regulations governing the labelling and marketing of sourdough contain no requirements to indicate methods used or the length of time of fermentation. The result is instant ‘sourdough’ bread on supermarket shelves which has had a bulk fermentation of 40 minutes and is flavoured with sourdough powder.
In a separate development, the Scottish Government is calling for UK flour to be fortified with synthetic folic acid in order to reduce birth defects, especially neural tube conditions such as spina bifida. The UK government is still considering its position after positive recommendations from its advisors, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
No-one can argue against the desirability of improving the diet and health of women before and during pregnancy, nor dismiss the Scottish government’s concern that low folate status affects deprived communities most severely. Putting synthetic folic acid in flour is a superficially attractive simple solution, but Andrew Whitley of Bread Matters explains why the fortification of flour with folic acid would be a big mistake.

Brexit would be a nightmare for food businesses

EU flagBrexit could create chaos for food producers who would have to abide by EU food regulations to export to the EU but have no say what goes in the regulations.

Last December, the Centre for Food Policy at City University London held its annual Food Symposium on the food and agricultural implications of the UK leaving the EU. The analysis of the Symposium proceedings was published last month and provided some stark reading. It highlighted, for example, that nearly 40% of the UK’s supply of fruit and vegetables comes from the EU along with 55% of pork. Brexit would mean that food imports would become more expensive, prices would increase and there could be major disruptions to supply chains.

Little surprise then that the Food and Drink Federation found that 71% of food businesses want to remain in the EU.  
What we need is a Common Food Policy and for the UK to work in collaboration with its European partners for the good of all.
Finally … a footnote on food law of times past

A clause in the medieval Welsh legal code known as the Laws of Hywel Dda (AD 880-950) suggests that cheese was commonly soaked in brine. According to the law, while cheese was still in the brine it belonged to the wife, once out of the brine (and so ready to eat) it belonged to the husband. The distinction was often used in divorce settlements!


"I can highly recommend Artisan Food Law, it’s a hugely useful and expert information resource on the law affecting artisan and small scale food producers."
Joanna Blythman
Award winning author and investigative journalist

Meanwhile …
Law, policy and trends
Italy renews challenge to the UK's traffic light nutrition labelling ~ overly simplistic and misleading to give whole milk a red light, but diet soda with added sweetener a green light!
France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks. Italy is set to become the second European country to make supermarkets donate their unsold food to charities.
The 'small' food firms owned by industrial food processing giants - Tea Pigs, Rachel's, Dorset Cereals ... owned by TATA, Nestle, ABF ... Does it matter? Do you care?
France has passed a law requiring all school cafeterias, hospital cafeterias, senior living communities, prisons and other state institutions to source at least 40% of food locally.
The Food Standards Agency claims public health at risk because councils are failing to carry out the required number of inspections at restaurants, takeaways and food processing plants.
‘Healthy’ is a bankrupt word ... our food isn’t healthy, but people can choose to be healthy.
Bee Wilson explores our relationship with food and how to relearn the art of eating - old habits are hard to break!
Darina Allen's predictions for food trends in 2016.
Artisan foods
Pasta originated in Persia in the 5th century ... not until the early 12th century did it arrive in Sicily when magic was worked and pasta transformed.
Italy nominates the art of Neapolitan pizza-making for inclusion in Unesco’s prestigious cultural heritage list.
Northern Ireland’s cheeses: Kearney Blue, Young Buck, Dart Mountain Dusk, Banagher Bold ... and their fantastic names!
The best baguettes are made by Koreans. At the Coupe du Monde de Boulangerie - the baking world cup in plain English - victory went to a South Korean team of bakers
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb caught the interest of acclaimed photographer Martin Parr and he turned his expert lens on the harvest.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland stays ahead of the game with this latest interpretation of the meaning of 'butter'.
Bere, a crop grown in Orkney, Shetland and areas of the Outer Hebrides, creates a unique tasting Stockan's Oatcake and offers a useful range of micro-nutrients.
Meet Jonny Crickmore of Fen Farm Dairy whose diversification into raw milk, cheese and butter is gradually levelling industry fluctuations.
Unseasonably warm temperatures have wreaked havoc on Yorkshire forced rhubarb which relies on cold temperatures for early growth.
There is a very British cured food revolution coming sharply into focus … says Jamie Oliver.
The Mast Brothers chocolate scandal in New York paved the way for developing a 'standard' for artisan production.
Wine, beer, spirits and drinks
Do you understand what 'craft' means when applied to beer?
The National Trust becomes new guardian of an internationally important collection of cider apples, helping to secure its future and save rare varieties being lost forever.
The shape of your glass can make your beer taste better.
Sustainable farming
"Around the world, traditional farming is being trashed in the name of a lot of bad ideas.” James Rebanks aka @herdyshepherd1
FAO report 17% of livestock breeds at risk of extinction. Over 350 animal breeds have already been catalogued in Slow Food's Ark of Taste, but there is so much more to do.
Organic and small-scale – an alternative vision at the Oxford Real Farming Conference.
Sustainable fish
The Sole of Discretion is creating a new supply chain which fairly rewards responsible fishers and provides consumers with fresh, high quality fish ~ provenance, quality and fairness are at the heart of its business model.
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