By Richard Eden
7:28AM BST 07 Oct 2012
They have been a staple of church fetes for centuries, and a vital source of parish funds, but jams and marmalades have now been deemed too dangerous for sale.
The Church of England has written to parishes warning them that conserves should not be sold in jars that have been previously used because of new food-hygiene regulations.
“You can re-use jam jars at home, and you can use them for private gifts to friends; what you are not allowed to do is to make jam, put it in re-used jam jars, then either sell it or even give it away at a public event,” warned the circular from the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service.
It added: “This looks like a spoof, but it’s not. We contacted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and were told that this is, in fact, the case.”
Canon Michael Tristram, of Portsmouth Cathedral, said: “On realising that this was not a belated April Fool’s joke, I was very anxious, not only from the fund-raising point of view for all our churches, but, also, because it goes against the green agenda of recycling.”
He added: “While understanding that all food sold at our fetes and fairs must be safe, we jam-makers and marmalade-makers sterilise our jars as a matter of course. Let’s hope that common sense prevails.”
The circular cited the FSA’s “Guidance Notes for Food Business Operators on Food Safety, Traceability, Product Withdrawal and Recall”. It said the Women’s Institute had “told us the same”.
This guidance states that “any food packaging used must be compliant with the European regulation which sets out the safety criteria”.
It warns: “It would be impossible to demonstrate to the relevant authorities that the re-used jars were compliant. However, only the courts can decide whether in particular circumstances an offence has been committed.”
A spokesman for the FSA said the interpretation of the regulations was the responsibility of local authorities, who would decide what constituted a “food business”.
The spokesman said: “Those planning the sale of preserves should check what view the local authority takes of the regulation. With an occasional event, like a fund-raiser, our advice would be that that would probably not be considered to be a food business.”