THE popular perception of the WI as the preserve of “Jam and Jerusalem” could be under threat by an EC directive affecting jam jars.

The time-honoured tradition of saving old jars for homemade produce for church fetes, raffles and country shows could bring jammakers everywhere on a direct collision course with European legislation.

Church organisations and the Women’s Institute are warning members that selling produce in re-used bottles for public events breaches a European rule preventing containers being re-used unless designed for that purpose.

The Women’s Institute is said to have brought the regulation to the attention of its 210,000 members and the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service has sent out a circular memo, headed: “This looks like a spoof, but it’s not”.

The regulation was introduced because there was a risk of chemicals leaching out of old containers and contaminating food.

Joyce Towers, from Leyburn Ladies Fellowship, in North Yorkshire, said spending money on new jam jars for some people would render the act of making jam to save money pointless.

The group often provides produce for events and competitions.

“To buy jam jars is quite expensive,”

she said. “It will stop people using up their apples in their garden if they are supposed to go and buy new jars and bottles.

“It just seems so ridiculous to me, unless there is a risk – then that risk should be looked into properly.”

Jam-making has seen a recent surge in popularity with even model Kate Moss and the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly taking up the pastime.

Many retailers have reported a large surge in jam-making equipment over the past few months.

The rule does not affect produce made for home use or when given away to family or friends.

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said local authority environmental health officers were allowed to use their discretion in enforcing the rule.

He said: “The EU rules state that anyone selling commercially must use a container that is designed for that, so, technically, the rule means people selling products cannot reuse a container that was not designed for re-use.

“The law has been put in place for good reason – to stop problems with chemicals leaching out of containers, but councils have been using discretion over it and there have not been any prosecutions since the legislation was bought into law eight years ago.”