Now I wanted to start this with a clever pun about jam or marmalade and the British Breakfast. Alas, I have yet to find one, but this story is arguably humorous enough in itself. I awoke this morning to a story on the BBC about a vote in parliament that will take place on deciding the minimum sugar content of jam and marmalade. If trivial micromanagement is a phrase that comes to your mind, I agree. I was arguing with myself over whether this was the government simply making a non-issue an issue, or if there was a genuine problem which required the government to spend time taking this into consideration.
Well according to Tessa Munt “it is the end of the British Breakfast as we know it” (let me quickly moan about her choice of calling it the British Breakfast, even the globally it is known as English Breakfast – Twining’s even have a tea named after it); now this is possibly a little farfetched. Now let me just establish what is going to happen in regards to this law passing through, British manufacturers will be able to reduce the amount of sugar in jams and other preservatives. It was set at 60% now to be lowered to 50% providing a slimmer version of British Jam. Now Tessa Munt has lamented that this will change the nature of British jam reducing its uniqueness and also making it more comparable to French jam.
Here is where things become more trivial, a DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) spokesman stated:
“Reducing the minimum sugar content in jam from 60% to 50% will help British producers – large and small – to trade more easily across the world, boosting our economy and allowing jam-lovers everywhere to enjoy delicious British jam.”
Now there is a big claim here that reducing sugar content will somehow make British jam a more competitive export, and as such will “boost” the economy. Now I see the possible argument that by the use of less sugar, producers will reduce the cost of production by some extent as in place of the sugar is likely to be cheaper substitute preservatives. The question is to what extent will this happen, changing the sugar content in jam and marmalade effects how runny or set the jam is, but ultimately it has been stated that this new minimum will have an almost unnoticeable effect.
I have attempted to find statistics, but I have not come across any data considering the size of the jam and marmalade export market. I am sure it has some significance as there are the royalty approved “Tiptree”, but gut instinct doubts a considerable effect on the foreign market, as it is doubtful that due to this change British jam will no longer be as British. I think if the government is already going to waste time on the non-issue of these foodstuffs it may as well look at the decline of marmalade, and the rise of peanut butter, matching spending at £56 million.
I hope this topic won’t be hotly debated in the commons, if anything it’s a great argument against government intervention, just let the producers decide, and the consumers demand what they want. In my opinion it could not be simpler.