Hold on to your hat, Paddington! EU-derived reforms could see jam renamed marmalade

Paddington Bear when he met Queen Elizabeth II for tea...  (Handout)
Paddington Bear when he met Queen Elizabeth II for tea... (Handout)

It is enough to make Paddington Bear drop his marmalade sandwich.

Ministers are considering EU-derived reforms which could see jam in Northern Ireland, and possibly the wider UK, called marmalade — and marmalade itself would have to be called “citrus marmalade”.

Ministers admit such a change could cause confusion but have still not ruled it out. They laid out their position on a proposed updated EU “Breakfast Directive” in a memorandum to the European Scrutiny Committee which sounded the alarm over the move.

The mooted changes include:

  • Products currently marketed as marmalade will have to be known as “citrus marmalade”, while the term “marmalade” can be used for all jams. This reflects national practice across the EU, where “mermelada” is commonly used to describe all jams, the committee’s report said. The change will help to distinguish the two product categories in line with international standards.

  • All of the individual countries from which a jar of honey originates will need to be listed on its label.

  • Minimum fruit content of jams and marmalades to be increased  from 35 per cent to 45 per cent.

  • A new “reduced-sugar fruit juice” or “reduced sugar fruit juice from concentrate” category (if it meets a minimum 30 per cent sugar content reduction compared to the standard product).

Under the Windsor Framework, the reforms would apply to goods produced in Northern Ireland. Ministers are considering making similar changes in Britain.

Food minister Mark Spencer told the committee the Government had not yet fully assessed the proposals.

“They contain several technical changes to EU rules which the Government needs to investigate further and discuss with stakeholders, particularly those businesses that will be affected,” the report added. “This will include consideration of whether it is in the best interest of the UK to consider similar changes.

“He considers the most significant change to be the introduction of a new category of reduced sugar fruit juice. This, says the minister, offers potential advantages on the grounds of health and improved consumer choice.

“Encouraging the production of jams with higher fruit content is broadly in line with previous UK proposed measures to reduce the sugar content of jam in line with reducing sugar intake. The minister notes that the changes to use of the term ‘marmalade’ could be confusing for UK consumers as the terms marmalade and jam are not interchangeable in the UK and have differing requirements.”

However, he stopped short of ruling it out.