Food labels: Clampdown on misuse of craft-linked terms

Words such as ‘farmhouse’ should not be slapped on factory ham, food companies told

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland guidelines say the term “artisan” must only be used to promote  foods that are made “in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople”. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland guidelines say the term “artisan” must only be used to promote foods that are made “in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople”. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Is the wanton use of words such as “artisan”, “farmhouse”, “traditional” and “natural” on food labels about to get the chop?

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is clamping down on misleading use of the terms with the publication of new guidance.

The word “artisan” should not be used to make a product sound posh, while “farmhouse” should not be slapped on factory-processed ham.

Labelling legislation already carries penalties for misleading consumers, but the authority is giving the industry a chance to comply with the guidance before taking prosecutions.

A spokeswoman said food businesses had until December 2016 to ensure their labelling complied. After that, prosecutions would follow.

The guidelines say the term “artisan” must only be used on foods that are made “in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople”.

The processing method must not be fully mechanised and must follow a traditional method.

Traditional

The food must be made in a micro-enterprise at a single location, while the key ingredients must be grown or produced locally where possible.

“Farmhouse” should only be used on food made by a micro-enterprise in a single location on a farm, with locally grown ingredients.

The guidelines make an exception for foods such as chunky vegetable soup, bread with a split and rounded crust and coarse paté because the use of “farmhouse” in their label is understood by consumers.

What of the much-abused term “traditional”?

The guidelines say this term should only be used for foods that have been made using an authentic recipe at least 30 years old, or a method of production at least 30 years old. “Natural” should only be used on a minimally processed food if it differs from other similar products.

The authority’s director of food science and standards Dr Wayne Anderson said the new guidance addressed concerns raised by genuine artisan producers who relied on these terms to differentiate their products from commercial foods.