British jam makers will have to make costly changes to their recipes to keep selling in Europe because Brussels is revising “breakfast directives” that regulate ingredients.
EU diplomats are locked in intense negotiations in Brussels over new regulations for jams, jellies and marmalades that dictate how much fruit spreads sold in the world’s largest market for jam must contain.
British officials are keeping close tabs on the talks and plan consultations with the UK’s devolved governments and the industry once the jam pact is finalised.
“Member states are going bananas over the fruit content percentage on types of jam,” one EU diplomat told The Telegraph. “What is for sure is that the percentage will rise and that will directly impact British producers and exporters.
“In this case of our breakfast directives,” the envoy added, “breakfast means Brexit.”
Minimum fruit levels
The UK agreed to the EU’s existing rules setting minimum fruit levels when it was still a member of the bloc, and those rules were carried over into British law after Brexit.
Now the European Commission wants to change the rules for its Single Market, which means UK and EU law will be different.
Failure to follow the new European rules will mean UK firms won’t be able to sell their existing products as jam in the EU.
They would either need to change their recipes, create special export versions to meet the requirements or be forced to accept labelling their products as fruit spreads.
EU sources revealed the talks have focused on increasing the fruit content of jam from 350g per kg to 450g.
‘Extra jam’ rules
Spreads classified as “extra jam” will have to increase their fruit content from 450g to 550g, under the proposals, which are subject to the negotiations between EU capitals.
Brussels has called for the fruit levels of citrus marmalade, a product closely associated with Britain thanks to Paddington Bear, to be maintained at 200g.
The European Commission has also proposed allowing the term marmalade, which means the same as jam in some EU countries such as Spain, to be used for jam for the first time, unless it is marmalade made with citrus fruits.
Jam makers in Northern Ireland, meanwhile, will have to follow the new EU rules because of the Brexit deal to prevent a hard Irish border.
However, the new Windsor Framework will allow jam made to British rules to be sent to the region through the new green lane over the Irish Sea border.
The new EU requirements aren’t likely to hurt artisanal British producers because they typically already use higher fruit levels, said Rosie Jameson, a jam expert who runs Rosie’s Preserving School.
But it would increase costs for mass-produced jams sold to the EU, which typically use the legal minimum of fruit to keep the price of jars down.
“Commercial-style producers would have to put 15 per cent more fruit in their recipes if they want to export and that would increase costs,” she said.
“And they will have increased costs whether it is a cheaper fruit pulp or pure fruit that they put in.”
British jams were heralded as one of the jewels of Britain’s exporting crown shortly after the Brexit referendum.
Mockery on social media
The Department for Business and Trade declared that France needed “high-quality, innovative British jams and marmalades”, to much mockery on social media.
But, in recent months, the UK has been increasing the value of its jam exports to the EU, which hoovers up almost half of the world’s jam imports, both in terms of value but also a proportion of total trade.
In the last financial year, the UK exported about 10.6 million kilograms of jam valued at around £32 million, according to statistics from HMRC. Of this, only a fraction (about 4 per cent) is specifically identified as marmalade.
Ireland came in as the largest market, taking roughly 29 per cent; followed by Germany (12 per cent); Poland (10 per cent); and the Netherlands (8 per cent).
France is the largest jam and jelly producer and exporter in Europe, and the biggest national market in Europe, followed by Germany, the other most influential member state in the EU.
Berlin is understood to support an increase in the fruit levels of jam but Paris has so far kept its cards close to its chest and wants an impact assessment before revealing its hand in the talks.