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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Have Your Say on the Definitions for the Description of Irish Food Products

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has just announced a public consultation on the use of Food Marketing Terms in Ireland.

The consultation is based on a Draft Code of Practice aimed at protecting the integrity of certain marketing terms on Irish food with the intent of protecting the interests of the consumer and the small food industry. Part of the code will concentrate on advertising terms that are used to define genuine differences between the foods that smaller producers offer and the mainstream commercial foodstuffs of a similar type.



The Draft Code of Practice will provide an "agreed set of additional rules" for the food industry use of the following marketing terms on foods:

• Artisan/Artisanal
• Farmhouse
• Traditional
• Natural

Here are the proposed definitions for the following Irish Food Marketing Terms:


Artisan/Artisanal
The terms “artisan” or “artisanal” or similar descriptions using these terms should only be used on foods that comply with the general legal rules governing the use of marketing terms and in addition can legitimately claim to have all of the following characteristics:

1. The food is made in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople
2. The processing method is not fully mechanised and follows a traditional method
3. The food is made in a micro-enterprise at a single location
4. The characteristic ingredient(s) used in the food are sourced locally, where seasonally available in the required quantity




Farmhouse 
The term “Farmhouse” or similar terms that create an impression that a food originates on a farm e.g. “farmer’s choice” should only be used on foods that comply with the general legal principles governing the use of marketing terms and in addition can legitimately claim to have all of the following characteristics:

1. The food is made in limited quantities
2. The food is made in a micro-enterprise
3. The food is made in a single location on a farm
4. The characteristic ingredient(s) used in the food has been sourced locally, where seasonally available in the required quantity.

It is acknowledged that there are certain foods that have used the term ‘Farmhouse’ for many years to mean that the food has a rustic look or a coarse or a chunky texture. Such terms used on these specific foods are well understood by the consumer and therefore the term ‘farmhouse’ may continue to be used on the following foods even if they do not have the four characteristics specified above:

  • Bread with a split and rounded crust with or without flour dressing 
  • Soup made with coarse cut or chunky vegetables 
  • Paté made with a coarse texture 

In addition a derogation is also necessary for fresh pasteurised milk and cream since these are short shelf life products where processing occurs close to the farm within a short time period. Although the use of the term ‘farmhouse’ to describe these products would not be acceptable the use of the term ‘Farm Fresh’ has been associated with such products for a number of years and may continue to be used.




Traditional 
The term “Traditional” conveys a sense of continuity and an impression that a food is made in a time honoured way or to a time honoured recipe. The term ‘Traditional’ or similar descriptions using this term should only be used on foods that comply with the general legal rules governing the use of marketing terms and in addition can legitimately claim to have one of the following characteristics:

1. The food is made to an authentic recipe which can be proved to have existed without significant modification for at least 30 years

OR 

2. The food has been made using a method of preparation that has :

  • Existed for more than 30 years although automation and mechanisation of these methods is acceptable.
    and 
  • Does not deviate substantially from the original food processing method associated with a certain type of food. 




Natural 
The term ‘natural’ or variations on this term (e.g. naturally better, natural goodness) that give the impression that a food exists in, or is formed by, nature - should only be used on foods that comply with the general legal rules governing the use of marketing terms and in addition can legitimately claim to meet all of the following criteria: 

1. The food is formed by nature and is not significantly interfered with by man 

2. The food is additive free or contains no artificial additives, colours or flavours other than flavourings that are natural as defined in European law and other food additives that are obtained from natural sources (e.g. plants) by appropriate physical processing (including distillation and solvent extraction) or traditional preparation processes. 

Finished foods that do not meet criteria 1 but are comprised of raw ingredients prior to processing that meet criteria 1 and 2, should not themselves be described directly or by implication as “natural”, but it is acceptable to describe such finished foods as “made from natural ingredients” 

The use of the term ‘natural’ has sometimes been restricted by law and in other cases has become synonymous with a certain type of product. In these specific cases the term ’natural’ may continue to be used on products which may not meet the two characteristics listed above. The following foods fall into this restricted category:
  • “natural mineral water”: Can only be used on water that meets the requirements of Directive 2009/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the exploitation and marketing of natural mineral waters. 
  • Foods that meet the conditions allowing use of the word ‘natural’ or ‘naturally’ before the certain nutritional claims as specified in Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods. 
  • Dairy products that have, for many years, included the term ‘natural’ to indicate that the dairy product is manufactured only from milk using only the starter cultures necessary for fermentation and are free from other ingredients, additives, flavourings and colours, e.g. :
“Natural yoghurt” : plain unflavoured yoghurt 
“Natural fromage frais” : plain unflavoured fromage frais 
“Natural cheese” : plain unflavoured cheese




The Draft Code of Practice was developed for consultation by a working group consisting of the FSAI, Food and Drink Industry Ireland, the Artisan Forum and the Consumers Association of Ireland. 

The consultation will run for 8 weeks and the Closing Date for Responses is 14th May 2014. 

All Irish Food Producers and all others with an interest in this should download the full text of the Draft Code of Practice of Marketing Terms on the FSAI website HERE.

Zack

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