what's happening

Thursday 1st of December 2016

     On a regular basis, the FSAI ( The Food Safety Authority of Ireland) publishes new guidelines for food businesses to comply with. While in the past couple of years it feels like we have to concentrate more on educating people (allergen lists, calories on menus, warnings regarding some colourings for example) than the actual safety regarding the food we produce, artisans like us do comply with the rules and just get on with it….

The last guideline published came out yesterday… and it has my blood boil …
The food industry is being given definitions for the following words:

§                        Artisan/Artisanal
§                        Farmhouse
§                        Traditional
§                        Natural
The goal is to make sure the consumers are not being misslead by those words when used in the marketing and publicity of food products. Presumably the aim is to stop big factories from using words that don’t apply to their product, and by doing so, protecting the businesses whose product is defined by one or more of those words.
So far so good… couldn’t agree more …

I have, however, a massive problem with the definition of artisan that is being given … here is the official definition:

5.1 Artisan/Artisanal

The terms ‘artisan’ or ‘artisanal’ or similar descriptions using these terms should only be used on foods or in advertising of foods that can legitimately claim to meet all of the following criteria:

1. The food is made in limited quantities(5) by skilled craftspeople(6)
2. The processing method is not fully mechanised and follows a traditional(7) method 3. The food is made in a micro-enterprise(8) at a single location
4. The characteristic ingredient(s)(9) used in the food are grown or produced locally(10), where seasonally available and practical

(5) Limited quantities means total production by the food business operator of less than 1,000 kg or litres of food per week on average over a year (this limit is aligned with the higher limit in other national rules covering an activity which is considered ‘marginal, localised and restricted’ see S.I. No. 168 of 2012 and S.I. No. 340 of 2010).
(6) A skilled craftsperson is someone who has special expertise in making food in a traditional manner (see footnote 7).
(7) Traditional has the meaning defined in Council Regulation 1151/2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs: “....proven usage on the domestic market for a period that allows transmission between generations; this period is to be at least 30 years;”.
(8) A micro-enterprise is defined as an enterprise which employs fewer than ten persons (or whole time equivalents) and whose annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total does not exceed EUR 2 million. (Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC).
(9) Examples of characteristic ingredients are milk in cheese, pork meat in ham, strawberries in strawberry jam, oats in porridge. This is not intended to be a definitive list of characteristic ingredients. As a rule of thumb, the characteristic ingredient(s) are those that would normally require a quantitative ingredient declaration (QUID) under the food information regulations.
(10) Within a 100 km of the manufacturing/food service establishment (this limit is aligned with the sale and supply limit set in other national rules covering an activity which is ‘marginal, localised and restricted’, see S.I. No. 168 of 2012 and S.I. No. 340 of 2010)

     Will it stop big non artisan factories from using that word? Probably … But it will also limit and restrict the real artisans like us, and that’s where the real danger lies in my opinion….Let me explain by taking back the 4 points of the definition:

1    – food made in limited quantities (1000kg or ltr per week max): why limit the quantity of what an artisan can produce???? Surely there’s no limit, the artisan just trains more people as demand grows!
      –  a skilled craftsperson: artisan or not, everybody is skilled in the position they work at I would have guessed …
        traditional manner: here they are telling us that you can’t create a new product or it won’t be “artisan”

2 – traditional method: same as previously, this limits the creation of new products …

3 – micro enterprise: they don’t want the artisan to develop too big. By restricting quantities and turnover, there’s a clear risk of prices going up for the consumer as an artisan won’t want to go over the threshold to remain in the artisan category. The only way then to keep on increasing the turnover is to increase prices, very unhealthy way of doing business in my opinion…
   - single location: I don’t see how the location affects an artisanal product. That’s just more restrictive nonsense… When we had our shop in Dalkey, we had a lovely young Lady working in the shop who we regularly asked to do trays of sugar flowers. I would then bring those back to Kilcullen. That didn’t make our cakes any less artisanal …

4 – ingredients used grown or produced locally: this is going to be the most controversial bit here … they are touching on a complete different subject!!! One simple and straight forward example: you will never have an artisan mince pie in Ireland if you follow their logic: we don’t grow raisins, sultanas, oranges, lemons … The core ingredient of our macarons is ground almonds: Ireland doesn’t produce almonds …. See the problem ?!??

One final thought:

The fact that artisans make products by hand is completely left out of the definition, and the “art” bit of artisan is completely ignored …

Signed: a very angry artisan

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