Raw drinking milk review and rare burgers - flexibility in food hygiene rules - traffic light labels confuse consumers ... and a full news round up

Newsletter No. 28   Autumn 2015

EU protected food names on the rise – but may lose some protection
PDOOver the summer, the Government published a list of 17 foods under consideration for EU protected food name status, having earlier announced plans to more than triple the number of protected food names from 63 to 200.
Among products that caught the headlines was Bramley apple pie filling. An eight-year campaign for TSG status brought the famous pie ingredient its just desserts. Birmingham's balti curry is also set to get protected name status, along with Welsh laverbread and Carmarthen ham, an air-dried ham similar to serrano, produced to a recipe by five generations of the same Welsh family. Forman’s legendary London Cure smoked salmon is also about to be awarded PGI status.
Add the aspiring hopes of Welsh pork, a new web site dedicated to the cause was recently launched, and Scots bakers seeking protected food name status for the Forfar bridie and we have had a busy summer.
The impact of the EU-US TTIP and EU-Canada CETA trade deals is, however, putting something of a dampener on all these hopes. While Ireland has introduced new measures to protect intellectual property in certain Irish foods, the UK Government has been criticised for not doing enough to protect Scotland's most famous global brands. The word is that the UK left it too late to amend the agreement with Canada to protect British produce, but products from other EU countries will receive protection.

Raw drinking milk review – what was all the fuss about?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has concluded its review on the future of raw drinking milk. The outcome? No change.
The review took over three years to complete and many were hopeful for a more positive outcome. The Board of the FSA met on 15 July and concluded that the risks associated with drinking raw milk are acceptable, vulnerable groups excepted, but current restrictions on sale must remain. The Board sought improved risk communication and the creation of trigger points that evidence a change in risk, which would lead to a re-opening of the discussion. In short, we learned nothing new and nothing has changed. It cost £58,599 to reach this conclusion.
None of the ambiguity in the legislation highlighted by the FSA at the outset of the review will be resolved and there will be no liberalisation of raw drinking milk sales, in particular the use of vending machines.
In similar vein, the Board of the FSA agreed last month that serving rare burgers in food outlets is unacceptable unless a validated and verified food safety management plan is in place. A decision which reflects the status quo and existing good practice for restaurants such as Davy’s Wine Bar and Restaurant.
EU food hygiene rules – strangling small-scale food production?

The refrain that EU food hygiene rules are excessive and place a disproportionate burden on small-scale food producers is heard often, usually expressed in a despairing tone of voice. What may be reasonable in regulating industrial and factory-processed food is out of all proportion to what is necessary in small-scale food production. At the recent biennial festival of Slow Cheese held in Bra, Italy last month this was a topic more fully explored at a conference attended by small-scale cheesemakers from across Europe.
While some flexibility in the operation of EU hygiene regulations is possible and could be useful to small-scale producers, awareness of the opportunities is low and flexibility is little understood. It is essential that both producers and consumers are aware of and understand the need for securing flexibility in the protection of traditional foods.
New study finds 'traffic light' food labels confusing

Traffic light labelFood labelling remains in the news following a recent study carried out by the University of Birmingham. Face-to-face interviews with shoppers found that while most people check front-of-pack (FOP) labels and recognise their importance, the ‘traffic light’ system used by many retailers is ambiguous to consumers, who also suffer from ‘information overload’ and a lack of contextual knowledge.
The researchers made a number of interesting findings:
  • The number of individual pieces of information on a product cause overload confusion. Consumers focus on one or two elements – for example, calories and fat.
  • Traffic lights in particular can be confusing. Is a red label to be avoided altogether? Is a product with two reds and three greens healthier than a product with five oranges?
  • Technical complexities are confusing. What is the difference between fat and saturated fat? There is also a lack of contextual knowledge about what constitutes a healthy diet.
While the researchers noted that people are in a hurry when they shop and spend no more than 10 seconds scanning nutritional labels, making things easier may not be an effective solution. The lack of contextual knowledge highlighted in the study may well hold the key, but this will not be found on a food label.
Cheese is made from milk – Slow Food says NO! to powdered milk
Slow Food has launched a campaign to stop the use of powdered milk in cheese making. The European Commission is seeking the repeal of Italian legislation that bans the use of milk powder, condensed milk and reconstituted milk in all dairy products. The measure is a key safeguard in the production of high quality cheese.
The Commission argues that Italian law prohibiting milk surrogates is an unlawful restriction on the free movement of goods.
Slow Food has launched a petition against the Commission’s move and argues that rather than taking a step backwards away from quality, all EU countries take a step forwards and agree a simple principle: Cheese is made from milk!

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Meanwhile …
Law and policy
CAP, the Committee of Advertising Practice that sets the code for advertising in the UK, is looking at the introduction of tighter rules on how food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar are marketed to children.
The true cost of cheap food – explained in simple terms.
Germany's Federal Court of Justice has extended copyright protections to include "elaborately arranged food” making it the "artistic property of the creator."
Artisan foods
Only three Scottish products to be protected food names in proposed TTIP trade deal between the EU and the US - Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Scottish Farmed Salmon.
Russia's war on western food leads to national cheese revival - the birth of new artisans or a bunch of copycats?
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland's new guidance on marketing terms is starting to bite it seems. McDonald's withdraw 'artisan' label on burgers sold in Ireland - the new voluntary guidance is not even in force until 2016.
When fast-food joints jump on the 'artisanal' bandwagon, consumers have to be more discerning to appreciate the origins, process and ingredients that go into a true artisan product.
The Hearth in Lewes takes a fresh look at our relationship with wheat in a move to put nutrition back into bread by growing 10 acres of heirloom wheat.
The Birmingham balti curry is to receive EU protected name status ... along with a few others as a target of 200 protected names is set.
Charles de Gaulle, former President of France, once famously said: "How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?" The UK now has over 700 cheeses!
West Country dairy farmers take a cow to customer approach - the ‪‎raw milk route that gives farmers control and adds value to milk.
Wine, beer, spirits and drinks
Craft beer proves divisive among real ale enthusiasts. Not to be confused with real ale, craft beers are pasteurised, real ale is still ferments in the barrel – the result is different.
Cider tax exemption retained in move to benefit small-scale cider producers.
Food waste
Food waste cafes and urban orchards: five ways people are building a new economy.
French supermarkets commit to voluntary food waste package, but did they jump or were they pushed by the prospect of a tougher new legislative proposal?
France's food waste law scrapped on a technicality - the measure introduced at second reading was ruled out by the Constitutional Council - but Lefebvre immediately proposes a new food waste bill.
Each year 1.3bn tonnes of food, a third of all produced, is wasted, including about 45% of fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat.

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