Selling preserves - trading standard requirements

Selling Preserves and Trading Standards

When you register with the local environmental health department you will probably find that they
automatically pass your details on to the trading standards department and you should expect to receive
a phone call and visit from them too. Again, keep in mind that they have no wish to stop you trading
and they are just there to ensure that you are operating within the rules in terms of food labelling. They
are very willing to provide you with all the information you need to make sure you put the correct
information on your labels.

Food labels are very informative and all of us refer to them whenever we go to the supermarket. We all
need to know, for example, what the name of the food is and we often check the use by or best before
dates. People with special dietary needs will refer to other pieces of information on the label such as the
ingredients list and list of allergens. And when things go wrong, we need to know how to contact the

Unlike environmental health, trading standards does make a distinction between someone selling a few
jars of jam at the local fete and a shop selling hundreds of jars. There is a difference between “direct
selling” and “indirect selling”. Direct selling is when you are stood behind the table, selling your own
home-made products direct to the customer. Indirect selling is when you sell your products to a third
party, such as a shopkeeper, who then sells it to a customer. Note that selling products over the Internet
is considered to be indirect selling. The thinking is that if you are there to answer any questions the
customer has then the food labelling can be quite simple, whereas if you are not there then all the
relevant information needs to be on the label.

Direct Selling – Mandatory Label Information
The labelling of jam and similar products (jelly, marmalade, curd, mincemeat etc.) is controlled by the
Jam and Similar Products (England) Regulations 2003. There are rules about the use of certain words
in the name of a jam depending on its ingredients but when making home made preserves using the
recipes in this book these rules have been met. When making jam for direct sale you need to include
the name of the jam. For example, “Strawberry Jam” for a jam with one fruit, or “Strawberry and
Gooseberry Jam” for a jam with two fruits, or, something like, “Summer Fruit Jam” for a jam with 3 or
more fruits.

Note that however environmentally friendly you are when growing your fruit and vegetables, the term
“organic” should not be used unless you have been officially organic certified.

The label should also contain the weight of the product in grams. Until April 2009, there were
restrictions on the size of jar that jam could be sold in but these rules have now been lifted and jam can
be sold in any size. You will probably find however, that jars continue to be in pound (454g), 12 oz
(340g), half pound (227g) and 4 oz (113g) sizes. Note that its is an offence to sell food that weighs less
than the label indicates.

Of less significance for home preserves but nonetheless required, you need to mark on the label any
ingredients that have been irradiated, or genetically modified, and any additives (antioxidants, colour,
flavouring, flavour enhancer, preservative or sweetener). Take particular care when using bought
ingredients that may contain these things such as dried apricots that contain sulphur dioxide as a
preservative. This should appear on your label in the ingredient list in a format like this, e.g.: dried
apricots (containing preservative: sulphur dioxide).

When selling preserves the selling price must be written down in a clearly legible unambiguous, clearly
identifiable and VAT inclusive way close to the product it refers to.

Direct Selling – Advisory Label Information
In addition to these mandatory items, there are other pieces of information that are recommended are
included on your labels. These are as follows:

A list of ingredients in descending order by weight. This can be worked out from the recipe. It should
include the percentage of each fruit in dual or mixed fruit jam.

Any allergens that your preserve contains. The allergenic ingredients are:
Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt and kamut)
Nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan, Brazil, pistachio, macadamia and Queensland nut)
Sesame seeds
Soy beans
Sulphur dioxide

Again, these are obvious from the recipe. You may choose to use the statement “may contain traces of
nuts” if you think your equipment or kitchen generally may be contaminated with nuts.

Preserves do not require a “use by” date but a “best before” date or “best before end” date is advisable.
This is to do with the quality of the food rather than any risk of food poisoning if consumed after this
date. Jam and preserves are usually good for at least a year but you may wish to keep a jar or two for
longer than that and try eating it to see if it has deteriorated in order to establish your best before date
for future batches.

A batch number is another useful thing to include on your jars. I find batch numbers very useful for my
own information but the idea behind it is to allow you to recall products if necessary. A batch number
does not have to be understandable by the customer. I generate a batch number using the initials of the
product I am making and the date it was made on. For example, strawberry jam made on 1st June 2010
would have the batch number sj1610. I keep a record of the number of jars I made and any notes about
the jam with the batch number. I then stick the batch number on the bottom of each jar and only give it
a proper label weeks later, referring to the notes I made against the batch number.

You could also include any special notes about storage such as “refrigerate after opening” if this
applies to your preserve.

Finally, including the name and address of your business is also recommended. This is so that your
customers can contact you should there be a problem but on a positive note it allows them to contact
you to buy more of your preserves once they have discovered how delicious they are!

Indirect Selling – Mandatory Label Information
When selling indirectly all those advisory pieces of information for the label become compulsory. In
addition, jams must include the two following statements:

“Prepared with Xg fruit per 100g” where X is the amount of fruit used in 100g of finished product.
“Total sugar content Yg per 100g” where Y is the amount of sugar determined by a refractometer at

The first statement can be worked out relatively easily from the recipe and is usually roughly 50%. The
sugar content in the final jam will be higher than the amount of sugar you put into the jam because
there are natural sugars in the fruit you use and there is no way to work it out from the recipe. A jam
refractometer can be purchased for about £20 from eBay and is very simple to use. Make sure you buy
the correct refractometer that can record sugar percentages above 50%. When you make a batch of jam,
test a small amount of it and keep a record of the percentage. You only do this once for each type of
jam you make. Percentage sugar is usually between 60 and 70%.