It could be sweet
Jam-making may conjure up images of rural idylls, but Lindsay Whalen finds that it's not always that way.
There has been a flurry of activity in the organic and fair trade arenas. So is all this choice good?
Critics have argued that it's environmental madness to import foods that we can produce in the UK, such as fruit for preserves and honey, from the other side of the world. The resulting pollution adds to the menace of global warming. But what if we are also similarly concerned with the plight of impoverished producers in the Third World?
Cutting edge environmental thinking suggests that if we're to manage climate change equitably in the long-term, then everybody on the planet should be given an equal right to pollute, by giving them a fairly distributed carbon ration.
Fairtrade, organic or local?
This means that consumers wishing to support workers in the Third World can ignore the food miles issue and look out for brands that carry the Fairtrade mark.
Companies offering Fairtrade products are indicated by an F next to the brand name in the table. The Fairtrade label only applies to suppliers from the Third World. Therefore, honey and fruit preserves travelling from places like Australia, the US and New Zealand should probably be avoided. Consumers wishing to support regional producers can buy honey and preserves locally or from local farmers markets.
Fruit picking is characterised by temporary contracts, long hours, low wages and poor health due to inadequate training in pesticide use. Making your own preserves, from fruit you've grown, using Fairtrade sugar, is one of the most ethical options. Simple recipes can be knocked up using fruit, sugar and a largish pan. If you make your own, you can restrict the amount of sugar as well. The fruit to sugar ratio for traditional jams is 450g (1lb) sugar to 450d (1lb) fruit.(1) High levels of sugar are linked to obesity, heart and liver disease, diabetes and tooth decay.(2) There is also some evidence that sugar can cause mood swings, hyperactivity and poor concentration in children.(3) The fruit spreads offered by Biona, Meridian and Whole Earth do not contain any added sugar or other sweetener.
Pesticide residues have been found in almost half of the UK's fresh fruit. The World Wildlife Fund claims that "orange production requires more intensive use of pesticides than any other major crops."(6) Most of the residues will be confined to the peel, but this may be a worry if you're a fan of marmalade.(6) One solution to this problem is organic jams. Companies offering organic preserves are indicated by an O next to the brand name in the table. FO next to the brand means that a Fairtrade organic certified product is available.
The best environmental option will be to buy spreads in glass jars. Most of the companies who responded to our request for information used some recycled glass content in their jars.
The issue of gelatin in jam has been given the elbow. The Vegetarian Society were not aware of any jams or preserves in the UK containing gelatin.(7)
1 'Jam, jellies and chutneys,' BBC Food, www.bbc.co.uk viewed 13/1/06
2 'Sweet Smell of Excess,' The Ecologist 11/03
3 ?What not to feed your child,' The Observer 10/4/05
4 'Response to the Policy Commission on the Future of Food and Farming,' Friends of the Earth 10/01
5 Vegan Society website, viewed 11/1/06
6 'Is it ok ... to drink orange juice?' The Guardian 10/1/06
7Conversation with Vegetarian Society representative 13/1/06
8 Food Magazine: No 71 2005
9 Greenpeace Shoppers Guide to GM, www.greenpeace.org 4/1/06
10 ENDS Report, 369 10/05