Food agency's code gives helping hand to artisan food makers
FOOD makers should not be allowed bamboozle consumers by claiming heavily processed foodstuffs are 'farmhouse', 'traditional' or 'natural'.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) wants to introduce a stringent new code of practice on how food is marketed in order to protect consumers and small food makers from large producers claiming the same kudos.
It is seeking to ensure that 'artisan' products genuinely match the image they evoke of a specialist food made in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople.
In addition, artisan foods would have to be produced using traditional methods at a single location and using locally sourced ingredients where possible.
Similarly, products dubbed 'farmhouse' or 'farmer's choice' would have to be made on a farm in limited quantities. The only exceptions would be specific foods that have been sold as 'farmhouse' for years to denote their rustic look or chunky texture, such as farmhouse bread, soup or pate.
'Traditional' foods would have to be made using an authentic recipe that could be proven to have existed for at least 30 years, or using a decades-old method of production.
Foods marketed as 'natural' would have to be formed by nature and not significantly interfered with by man, as well as being free of all artificial additives, colours or flavours.
The exceptions to this would be certain foods and mineral water deemed 'natural' by the EU as well as dairy products such as 'natural' yogurts made only from milk and starter cultures, but with no other additives.
The FSAI said the proposed code came about because of concerns expressed by small food businesses which rely on these marketing terms to differentiate themselves from mass-produced foodstuffs.
It has published a consultation and said that though the new rules would not be legally binding the food industry had been given a role in preparing it and would be expected to comply.
Dr Wayne Anderson of the FSAI said the new code would go a long way to addressing concerns about potentially misleading marketing terms.
"In particular, it is important that consumers are confident that the foods they buy are accurately and truthfully described," he said. "Food businesses should also be confident that genuine descriptions of their food are not diluted in the marketplace by the spurious use of undefined marketing terms by other food business."
Dicky Willems of award-winning Coolea Farmhouse Cheese said the new code was a welcome step.