web analytics

Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The Food Standards Agency responds over their EU banning selling eggs by number quote

Following the nonsense over the EU banning selling eggs by number, many have seized on the anonymous Food Standards Agency spokeswoman quoted by the Mail on Sunday as saying “This proposal would disallow selling by numbers. Retailers would not be allowed to put “Six eggs” on the front of the box. If it was a bag of rolls, it would say “500g” instead of six rolls.”

I asked the FSA for a clarification: At no point in the document is there any mention of labelling being forbidden in the way that your unnamed spokesperson claims. Yet this quote is now being used in numerous follow-up articles to justify outrage over a move that isn’t even being proposed… I would be most grateful for a statement to clarify the situation. Is it actually the FSA’s stated belief that the EU is planning to make labelling a box of six eggs with “Six Eggs” illegal, or was the unnamed spokesperson speaking out of turn?

I received the following response:

Since the report over the weekend in the Mail on Sunday re: FIR selling by number proposals, the FSA has now updated its position. I hope this makes things clear:

Consumers are used to buying some products such as eggs by number and we want to ensure this continues.

We will continue to press in Europe for the ability to sell food by number, ensuring it appears on the face of the proposals. This will provide clarity for both consumers and industry.

Not quite good enough, I thought, so I went back to them: Does the FSA still believe that the proposed legislation would disallow selling by numbers? A simple yes or no would be much appreciated. Their reply:

apologies if we appeared not to be answering your question. But it’s not a case of a yes or no answer. The draft regulation specifies the ways in which net quantity may be expressed, which does not include number [their emphasis]. The draft regulation does include a mechanism through which the Commission could allow some deviation from selling by weight or volume but we do not think this is clear enough.

We will continue to press for provisions in the regulation which would clearly enable food to be sold by number.

Please note “we do not think this is clear enough“. In my books, that’s not the same as the categorical “would“s of the original Mail quote.

They are, of course, technically correct. The draft legislation doesn’t make explicit mention of allowing eggs (or other foodstuffs) to be sold by number. But that is not the same as a ban – not by a long stretch. It seems the FSA has now realised this – but is reluctant to fully admit its schoolboy error.

(And yes, I am aware of the meme popular in certain anti-EU circles about Napoleonic Law versus Common Law and how the EU uses the former which only permits things explictly stated while the latter allows everything *except* things explicitly stated. It’s a load of ahistorical abject bollocks made popular by people who haven’t got the first clue about how EU Law actually works. In any case, it matters not a jot in this instance, as Britain (or, at any rate, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) still has its Common Law, and would therefore not be obliged to stop eggs being labelled by number even if the final version of this proposed legislation forgot to include an explicit opt-out.)

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: You COULD make it up: On abolishing eggs by the dozen | Nosemonkey's EUtopia

  2. Has the Food Standards Agency actively tried to debunk the crap they have been loaded with?

    Or are they happy with how their old position was quoted, but have only discreetly updated their view?

    They seem to have earned a proverbial 500 grammes of rotten eggs in their face.

  3. By my reading of only your posts and the FSA response on this subject, it seems that eggs will have to be sold by weight and not by number? So those nasty EU autocrats whilst not actually “banning” eggs being sold by the dozen are working on making it illegal to sell by number and instead make it only legal to sell by weight. It also seems that the FSA is trying to oppose this non ban so that eggs can still be sold by the dozen? So as long as we can get our chickens to produce only the correct weight or weights to correspond with 12 all will be just dandy for those where 12 is a magic number.

    Is not the real question here why we bother to elect a government in Westminster when we already have one in Brussels?

  4. Ken – the simple answer to all your questions is: no.

    Please note the statement from the European Parliament itself, quoted in my other post (which you say you read, so not sure how you missed it):

    “there will be no changes to selling foods by quantity. Selling eggs by the dozen, for example, will not be banned”

    The FSA’s revised position is that the legislation itself doesn’t make this obvious enough. The FSA is confused.

  5. “In principle, there will be no changes to selling foods by quantity. Selling eggs by the dozen, for example, will not be banned”. This is contradicted by the FSA; in both the Mail and in their communications with you.

    I was actually tweaking your tail a little, in your impulsive effort to construct another EU myth you seem to have got stuck with an unhelpful FSA, it is clear that the Mail story was quite correct:

    The Mail :

    The new rules will mean that instead of packaging telling shoppers a box contains six eggs, it will show the weight in grams of the eggs inside, for example 372g.

    The rules will not allow both the weight and the quantity to be displayed.

    “an FSA spokeswoman said: ‘This proposal would disallow selling by numbers. Retailers would not be allowed to put “Six eggs” on the front of the box.”

    The FSA:

    “The draft regulation specifies the ways in which net quantity may be expressed, which does not include number. The draft regulation does include a mechanism through which the Commission could allow some deviation from selling by weight or volume but we do not think this is clear enough.
    We will continue to press for provisions in the regulation which would clearly enable food to be sold by number.”
    The FSA will continue to press!
    However at this time the Mail is correct there will still be 6 eggs in a box the Mail never said there would not be, they spoke of labelling. As with all EU myths this one has a basic element of truth, but of course those who point out that truth are only inventing something out of thin air.

  6. Ken – Try looking at the *existing* rules on egg packaging. The proposals – when it comes to weight – really are nothing new.

    The Mail has also now retracted its story – albeit with the predictable spin that this is somehow a victory for a British “backlash”.

    Really – I’ve covered all this in detail already, and am not going to go through it again just for your benefit. Read the article I’ve already posted, follow the links. That will give you all the information you need.

    In short, you are mistaken. As was the Mail. As was the FSA. The FSA is refusing to admit its mistake, but read between the lines – are they still saying that the proposals *will* ban selling eggs by number? No – they are saying that they *could*. This is rather different, and about as close to a retraction as I was ever likely to get – because it was always unlikely that they’d admit that they were flat-out wrong, even though they were.

  7. Amazing stupidity from the FSA. Another one for the bonfire of the quangos.

  8. No, Ken – you are mistaken, as werre the Mail and the FSA. The Mail has retracted its original story.

    Read between the lines of the FSA’s response to me – they are no longer saying that the proposals categorically *WILL* ban selling eggs by number, they are saying that they are worried that they *MIGHT*. This is a climb-down tempered by an attempt at face-saving – they don’t want to admit that they were a little over-excited in their objection.

    It also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what would happen were this legislation to be enacted – i.e. not a lot, when it comes to requirements about egg box labels’ requirements to list numbers and weights. Because unless the regulations expressly ban labelling a box with “Six eggs” (or whatever), producers would be free to carry on doing so. Anyone who says otherwise is talking bollocks.

    You may also want to check out the existing legislation on egg packaging:

    “Minimum standards of quality and weight grading… The regulations apply to hen eggs marketed within the Community. They do not apply to eggs sold direct by producers to the final consumer at the farm gate, in local public markets (with the exception of auction markets), or by door-to-door selling.”

    In other words, despite what the Mail seemed to believe, the weight thing is nothing new in any case. (Which is why I have a box of eggs in my fridge at this very moment which has “minimum weight 540g” stamped on the side.)

  9. Pingback: bloggingportal.eu Blog & Support » Blog Archive » The Week in Bloggingportal: Death of the Pseudonyms

  10. Pingback: Euroblog Round-up: Death of the Pseudonyms | Eurogoblin.eu