In a Bit of a Jam

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Are you in or headed towards the Czech Republic, but still looking forward to your marmalade at breakfast time? Sorry, that’s probably not possible:

iDnes: Marmeláda se nevrátí, Unie odsoudila Česko k rosolu a džemu: Marmeláda se do regálů českých obchodů hned … http://t.co/6FXkUxdZ

@Zpravy

Zpravy


But don’t despair: it depends on what you call “marmalade,” as we learn from a recent article from Mladá fronta dnes. The European Commission is quite strict about what it allows to be called marmalade. That is one of the EU’s protected food designations – like “champagne” or “Parma ham” – so the Commission has demanding requirements: “marmalade” must at all times be made only of citrus fruits, and must have at a minimum 20% of actual fruit content.

A certain Czech foods company called Hamé realized it was about to get into trouble (e.g. incur fines) for calling some of its fruity breakfast-spread concoctions “marmalade” and so filed an appeal to be allowed an exception. That was rejected; the choices for the label are to be only “jam” (džem) or jelly (rosol). But it might still be what you yourself regard as “marmalade”; you’ll have to examine the label – yes, it will be in Czech, so instead just take the plunge and purchase a likely-looking jar and go home and see!

So now the Czech public can savor – if they haven’t had the chance before – the sort of laughable instance of EU interference in their everyday lives that people in older member-states have been complaining about for years. The thing is, that’s precisely the wrong audience, given the pronounced anti-EU attitudes already prevailing among many leading Czech politicians, notoriously headed by President Václav Klaus himself.

Finally, I mentioned that the Commission was “quite strict” about its protected designations, but that’s not quite true, even in the case of “marmalade”: in Denmark, Greece and Austria you can find products with that designation which do not meet the citrus fruit/20% content requirement. But that’s because the respective governments were careful to get their marmalade exemptions as their countries were becoming member-states, i.e. back when they had a little more leverage. The Czech authorities didn’t think of that back in 2004 when the Czech Republic entered the EU – they were busy defending designations a bit closer to home, like slivovice, a potent fruit-based alcohol.

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