Fears have emerged for the future of the much-loved charity bake sale amid changes to food regulations.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is currently holding talks as part of a wide-ranging review into its policies.
One of the changes that could be made is to ask home bakers to pay up to £300 to have their kitchens inspected.
The FSA insist it is only one of many options being discussed as part of preliminary talks and no firm proposals have yet been tabled.
But charity bosses, including Daniel Hill, head of fundraising for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, said the charity could be “significantly affected” if such changes were brought in.
Others said it would be “heavy-handed” and are calling for proper consultation with charities before any decisions are made.
I feel this would be taking it to the extreme, seems heavy handed
Mr Hill said: “As a local charity we rely heavily upon local community groups and individuals who raise significant amounts of money through various activities including bake sales, fetes and community events where they sell baked goods.
“These activities form a very traditional part of community fundraising and have helped to raise a significant amount of money over the past 20 years for Rosemere.
“Rosemere could be significantly affected by these potential changes from the Food Standards Agency, as many of our supporters may be priced out of making baked goods to raise vital funds, which help ensure local patients get world class cancer care as close to home as possible.
“Any downturn in donations would inevitably impact our ability to fund the level of projects and services we currently do.”
The possible changes are part of the FSA’s ‘Regulating Our Future’ review and the agency is currently consulting with a number of parties.
Normally, food inspection costs would be covered by business rates paid to the local borough council. But concerns have been raised that businesses, charities and fundraisers could all become susceptible to the charges in future. The FSA said a range of options are being looked at but insist no firm proposals have been made.
Garstang Country Markets, where products are made by members in their own kitchens or grown in their own gardens, has issued a survey in which they want businesses to “express in the strongest terms the consequences that this action will have on your business”.
These findings will be given to Food Solutions, a company representing small businesses in these preliminary talks, and presented at the next meeting to show the “strength of feeling”.
Malcolm Milner, of Garstang Country Markets, said: “This could have the potential to ruin the market but it would also cause bigger problems.
“This could stop so many people who use their own time to bake goods for charities, meaning so many good causes could miss out. We understand the safety concerns but this just goes too far and we want to let them know how we feel before any decisions are made and it’s too late.”
The FSA is keen to state no changes have bee finalised and claim it is wrong to “mislead” food businesses with the questionnaire circulating. An FSA spokesman: “Plans for our future regulatory model for food and feed are very much under discussion and decisions on its design haven’t been reached.
“We are developing our plans in consultation with all those with an interest in food regulation, including our Expert Advisory Groups of which Food Solutions is a member.
“We therefore continue to invite views to help shape the design of the model, either via organisations like Food Solutions or through our dedicated email address.”
The dedicated email address is future email@example.com. Interested parties can also follow progress by signing up to our ‘Regulating Our Future’ newsletter www.food.gov.uk
‘These charges are unrealistic’
For 68-year-old former caterer Margaret Dunn, who regularly fundraises for Rosemere Cancer Foundation as well as others, says she would be worried if the charges were approved.
“It could seriously deter people from making things to raise money for charity,” said Margaret.
“Bake sales are a big source of income for charities but if people had to pay for their kitchen to be inspected it could put them off.
“They could go to the shops and buy things but I think people like making it.
“These charges would be very unrealistic.
“I can see the safety side of it because more people have more allergies these days and you don’t know anything about how or where that food has been made.
“People often aren’t aware of how to store food or how long it can be out for so I can see a little sense behind it.
‘I feel this would be taking it to the extreme, seems heavy handed’
Len Curtis of Donna’s Dream House in Blackpool, said: “I feel this would be taking it to the extreme.
“I run a catering business as well and I understand the need for regulations, and this is relevant for businesses supplying the general public, but it seems heavy-handed for charity cake bakers.
“And where does this stop? Will this affect WI groups who have cakes at their meetings? Will it affect all the scouts and cubs who have food at camps?
“There needs to be a lot of consultation before anything new regulations are brought in.
“You don’t want to put anyone off from helping their local charities.”
‘Safety is utmost for us’
A spokesman for Blackpool’s Trinity Hospice, said: “We would hope that the FSA would speak to charities to get their thoughts on this.
“We get a lot of support from community fundraisers, and many of them help us in the form of bake sales. Safety is utmost for us and we always make our supporters aware of food hygiene guidelines.”