Sunday, July 04, 2010

Eggs: Nothing to Apologise For

It was the widely respected Grocer magazine, which first printed the story about the EU wanting to ban selling products by numbers. It was then picked up by national newspapers. I wrote about it HERE. Ever since I have been plagued by Europhile idiots calling on me to apologise for essentially making up the story. I haven't because I didn't.

Today the editor of The Grocer, Adam Leyland, has written a column explaining why he wrote the story and why it still stands. He accuses the German MEP Renate Sommer of being disingenuous and misleading in her attempts to rebut the story. Here is an extract from Mr Leyland's column...

Bureaucrats in Brussels are a sensitive bunch.

Over the years, they have been soundly ridiculed for their sometimes misguided and petty regul­ations. Perhaps that explains why they don’t take criticism well.

So when my magazine The Grocer last week revealed worrying proposals to introduce expensive and pointless new regulations, the Euro mandarins were quick to dismiss our story as mischievous and misleading Euro-bashing.

We explained that the new regulations would mean, for example, that cartons of eggs or packs of buns and other grocery items – traditionally sold by number – would have to be individually weighed.

In an attempt to quell the growing row, Renate Sommer, the German MEP in charge of steering the new food legislation through the European Parliament, denied it
unequivocally, adding: ‘There will be no changes to selling foods by number.’

The implication was that my magazine had made up the story. Yet nothing could be further from the truth and we believe Sommer’s belated ‘clarification’ is, in many ways, disingenuous and misleading.

As things stand, exemptions for certain foodstuffs traditionally sold by number are still affected by the proposed legislation. And even where packages do give numbers of items, price would still be determined by weight.


What we took the trouble to do was to actually read the EU’s 75-page draft
prop­osals on food labelling, which comes complete with 175 pages of amendments.

The draft regulations aim to standardise food packaging across Europe and include such contentious issues as country of origin and complex nutritional advice.

They are labyrinthine in their complexity and have been under negotiation since 2004.
What we found by studying the small print was a sensational story. In a vote in the European Parliament last month, MEPs rejected amendments to the draft legislation to exclude a range of groceries and wrapped goods which we have traditionally bought by number.

They include eggs, croissants, muffins, cereal biscuits, packed fruit and vegetables, vanilla pods, food supplement pills and vitamins. Under the proposed new law, these would have to specify the weight on the label.

Behind the scenes, industry lobbyists and enlightened MEPs have begun a campaign to ensure the EU officials are fully aware of the implications.

If this legislation is not amended when it reaches the EU Council later this year, it will mean pointless red tape and unnecessary costs to food producers who already work on tight margins – without any benefit to the consumer. We think that’s worth fighting.

That is why our investigation was never the mischievous, Europhobic scare story that some critics have suggested. And why we are proud – whatever the EC says – to have brought it to public attention.


Read the whole article HERE. This is not written by a tabloid journalist or a partisan blogger. It's written by the editor of The Grocer. Think on that.

So perhaps I should now ask for an apology from those who wanted one from me. I might as well whistle in the wind.


33 comments:

Atticus Finch said...

Saying they have to be weighed is not the same as saying they cannot be sold by the dozen or half dozen. Nice spinning though Iain.

Mike said...

SO it's gone from "EU to ban eggs by the dozen" to "EU wants the weight of produce to be put on the packaging".

Eggs are already weighed, anyway.

From Liberal Conspiracy-

"Well, this would be true, except that eggs are already graded by weight – e.g. a ‘large’ egg weighs 63-73g – which requires them to be weighed. And under EU labelling rules, positive errors are allowed on packaging, as are negative errors of 3% (for a package that weighs 300-500g, like six large eggs).

So if the new rules do come in, an egg producer who wished to comply with them at zero cost could just add ‘weight 385g’ to all their boxes of large eggs, and otherwise carry on as before."

So what we have is this-

"The EU are banning eggs by the dozen!"

No they're not.

"Well, then.. they're adding to the cost of eggs by making sure they have to be weighed!"

Eggs are already weighed.

Neil Evans said...

Sorry Iain, you can't defend that article, it's a bad article - full stop. They're not banning selling them by weight, they simply want them to be also sold by weight (as in the weight should be printed on boxes of 2, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 24.

Iain Dale said...

I dont think a single commenter so far has read the enire Grocer article.

It says it all that one of them would prefer to helieve Sunny effing Hundal rather than the editor of the sector's leading trade mag.

Atticus Finch said...

Have you or the tory lickspittle at The Grocer got any evidence that there is a proposed ban by number? If so why have either of you not published it?

john in cheshire said...

Iain, I think you were totally correct to bring this to people's attention. The EU lovers in this country would, and do, lie through their teeth to besmirch anyone who voices concerns about what is being done to us via the EU socialist machine. There is no need for legislation such as this and we, the UK, shouldn't even be willing to compromise, we should simply reject its application in our country. The massive bureaucracy that has been inflicted upon us should, in a normal world, be there to serve us. Whereas, they presume to dictate what we should consider acceptable. But socialists have never been very good at being servants.

The Boiling Frog said...

The proposals may not specifically exclude the likes of eggs, but neither does it mention banning the selling by numbers. That's a crucial difference. You can still sell by the dozen but have to put the weight on the packaging, which is...er...what they do now.

The 6 eggs in my fridge currently have the words; "Minimum Net Weight 396g" stamped on the box.

Atticus Finch said...

I look forward to your evidence John that there is any truth in this story.

Jack of Kent said...

I have looked at the draft regulations.

I regret that Iain has erred.

There is simply no prohibition on eggs being sold by the dozen.

David Boothroyd said...

If you're accused of being a gullible idiot, it's no defence to say that someone else is just as much a gullible idiot as you are.

The Grim Reaper said...

You're waiting for Sunny Hundal to apologise to you?

This could be a very long wait. I'll get a few year's supplies of food and medicine.

Little Black Sambo said...

Of course we shall still be able to buy a dozen or half dozen of anything; but the point of the article seems to be that eggs (etc) would be sold, not by number as at present, but by weight, so that each carton of, say, six eggs would have to be weighed individually and priced exactly according to the weight of those particular six eggs inside it, treating them the same as a lump of cheese. Plain daft, and as usual, people are not trusted to use their common sense. When can we leave?
(Did you notice that the £7 million being denied to the Queen represents 4 hours' worth of our membership of the EU?)

john in cheshire said...

Atticus, I look forward to your demonstration that there is no truth in this posting.

Atticus Finch said...

BLS is that what the proposed legislation says? Do you have a link to it, would be interested to read it.

Atticus Finch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Atticus Finch said...

This debate can be ended simply and easily. All we need is a link to the relevant section of the draft legislation that states eggs will no longer be able to be sold by the dozen/ half dozen. I look forward in anticipation.

JMB said...

It might be possible to put something like "minimum weight xxx pounds" on the box but why go to all the bother and expense of changing the regulations if this is the case?

Also it only needs one Trading Standards department, wanting to make a name for themselves, to prosecute someone. They won't take on Tesco, it will be some small trader who cannot afford to defend himself.

Also someone selling eggs loose might have to weigh each bag or box. What does that achieve?

I notice the article mentions croissants. Can anyone imagine the French bothering to weigh every croissant sold?

Presumably it will also apply to cakes, pies, pasties etc sold loose in a shop, they will have to be weighed and priced by weught.

The Boiling Frog said...

but the point of the article seems to be that eggs (etc) would be sold, not by number as at present,
Not true, you can sell the eggs how you like, by the number of atoms contained within if you so wish, as long as the weight is displayed on the box - very much like now.

This is the regulation here, page 36:

1. The net quantity of a food shall be expressed, using litres, centilitres, millilitres,
kilograms or grams, as appropriate:
(a) in units of liquid in the case of liquids;
(b) in units of mass in the case of other products.


You just have to list the weight of the eggs on the box, there's nothing there banning the selling of anything by a number.

It's actually reducing the amount of regulation when compared to this summary of what is required now.

Alfie said...

Two weeks ago we took delivery of 6 ex battery hens from the Battery Hen welfare Trust Charity.

They were a sorry lot - basically in total shock.

Since then they have blossomed, they are now exploring the whole garden and we are rewarded every day with at least 4 eggs...

It's the best thing we have done for a long time.... Anyone interested in rehoming an ex battery hen(s), please check this out -
http://www.bhwt.org.uk/

Rossa said...

I have emailed this link to Iain:-

http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/foodlabelling/publications/proposal_regulation_ep_council.pdf

Page 66 clearly states under ANNEX VIII...
NET QUANTITY DECLARATION
1. The net quantity shall not be mandatory in the case of foods:
(a) which are subject to considerable losses in their volume or mass and which are
sold by number or weighed in the presence of the purchaser; or
(b) the net quantity of which is less than 5 g or 5 ml; however, this provision shall
not apply to spices and herbs.

So that's clear then. You can sell 6 eggs, half a dozen eggs or however many eggs you want!

So will this get past moderation Iain?

Mike Power said...

This is what Dale wrote:

EU Abolishes a Dozen Eggs

No longer will we be able to buy eggs by the dozen...shopkeepers will be forced to sell them by weight.

And that, my friends, was, and remains, pure cack.

flay said...

"Read the whole article HERE. This is not writte[sic] by a tabloid journalist or a partisan blogger. It's written by the editor of The Grocer. Think on that."

I wonder though whether you've read the legislation that the author of that article claims to have read. If not then you're simply taking someone's word. Personally, I prefer several sources including the original one. Many commenters here have pointed out the error by referring to the actual legislation which I have browsed and agree. You can't argue facts.

Nosemonkey said...

Iain - I've read the entire Grocer article. I've also read the original legislation. And the amendments. And contact the Food Standards Agency, European Parliament and European Commission for statements and clarifications.

Not that I needed to do all this, because it was pretty apparent that this story was a load of old bollocks from the headline. Even arch-eurosceptic Richard North of EU Referendum dismissed it as obvious bullshit.

I think the reason people are so annoyed is that you pretend to be some kind of leading blogger, yet are happy to unthinkingly regurgitate print media stories without even doing the most basic of secondary checks.

Hell - you think that the Liberal Conspiracy story was written by Sunny Hundal, and dismiss it on that bases. (It isn't, as anyone who bothered to follow the link would know.)

Is that really how far your research extends? Dismissing sources you dislike or disagree with out of hand while instantly believing any old rubbish that confirms your prejudices?

*sarcastic applause*

John said...

I suggest the European Conservatives and Reformists mount a campign to defeat the regulations outright.

I cannot see what is added to life by enacting such regulation. If an EU-enthusiast would like to explain, I'm all ears!

Span Ows said...

Which bit of

"If this legislation is not amended when it reaches the EU Council later this year, it will mean pointless red tape and unnecessary costs to food producers who already work on tight margins – without any benefit to the consumer. We think that’s worth fighting"

are Atticus and friends finding hard to understand? Even in Iain's original piece he used the words "EU Abolishes a Dozen Eggs" which in essence if perfectly correct because if this legislation goes through unchanged selling ONLY by the dozen will NOT BE ALLOWED.

Atticus, do you understand?

Word verfication: epoopp. How marvellously appropriate.

Span Ows said...

There is a link to the legislation in the comments of Iain's original post. Thos ereally interested could find it themselves in 5 minutes but hey...rather stir shit here wouldn't they.

Mike: so could the famer sell a box of "one dozen large eggs". Yes or no?

Mike Power, the bit you quote actually proves Iain RIGHT and you wrong. Nice one.

Jack of Kent..."I have looked at the draft regulations

I regret that Iain has erred."


He hasn't...read it again.

Span Ows said...

Rossa, your documjent refers to NET weights. i.e. if you had a tin of sardines that was 150g but only 100g sardines after draining; this would not be necessary on the label (actually my example may not be a good one as I've seen tins of sardines with a net weight but hopelly you get the idea)

The Boiling Frog said...

Richard North has gone into even more detail tonight why the Daily Mail and the Grocer is talking bollocks, basically he says:

It is under the Egg Marketing Regulations (as amended) that the marketing requirements for eggs are set out, and they are not affected by [this regulation]. They cannot be unless specifically repealed. And the application of the EMRs is (rightly) confirmed by the EP press office.

and

And here, one is a little worried by [Leyland's] claim to have taken the trouble "to actually read the EU's 75-page draft", specifically because the draft ...is actually 85 pages. One wonders what he has been reading.

In short, the EU is not banning selling eggs by the dozen or by any other number.

Nosemonkey said...

John - you ask what is added to life by such regulation. Not that I'd call myself an EU-enthusiast, but OK...

Here are the existing egg labelling rules. Somewhat detailed - and that's just for eggs.

This is as simple as I can make it:

These proposals are designed to rationalise this existing labelling system (not just for eggs, but for thousands of other foodstuffs), removing unnecessary information, and thus reducing administrative and manufacturing costs to the producer, while simultaneously making food packaging clearer for the consumer.

Why does this need to be set at EU level? If doesn’t. It does, however, make a great deal of sense to have *one* set of packaging standards across the entire Common Market – not only does this allow a much fairer, more free-market system of trading across the EU (and EEA, as Norway, Switzerland, etc. are also bound by such EU rules) as all producers can compete on a level playing field, and consumers in every country know that they are getting the same information on which to base their purchases as those in every other, it also significantly reduces costs for both governments and producers, as only one set of rules and regulations has to be adhered to and maintained, rather than 27+.

You can dispute the *need* for such regulations if you so choose. However, the fact that 99% of all countries in the world *have* such regulations would tend to suggest that your utopian dream of market self-regulation is pretty far from being attainable. In the meantime, the EU’s rationalisation of the packaging regulations of 27+ countries is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways of maintaining standards and ensuring the free-flow of capital within the market that anyone has ever come up with anywhere in the world.

Span Ows: Actually, there's a standard opt-out in all of this sort of legislation for farmers selling direct to consumers and for small producers. They only need to abide by these regulations if selling on the mass market.

Also, check out Annex VIII of the proposed legislation (specifically VIII.4). That explicitly provides for selling by number.

Nosemonkey said...

Span Ows: Actually, there's a standard opt-out in all of this sort of legislation for farmers selling direct to consumers and for small producers. They only need to abide by these regulations if selling on the mass market.

Also, check out Annex VIII of the proposed legislation (specifically VIII.4). That explicitly provides for selling by number.

Nosemonkey said...

John - you ask what is added to life by such regulation. Not that I'd call myself an EU-enthusiast, but OK...

Here are the existing egg labelling rules. Somewhat detailed - and that's just for eggs.

This is as simple as I can make it:

These proposals are designed to rationalise this existing labelling system (not just for eggs, but for thousands of other foodstuffs), removing unnecessary information, and thus reducing administrative and manufacturing costs to the producer, while simultaneously making food packaging clearer for the consumer.

Why does this need to be set at EU level? If doesn’t. It does, however, make a great deal of sense to have *one* set of packaging standards across the entire Common Market – not only does this allow a much fairer, more free-market system of trading across the EU (and EEA, as Norway, Switzerland, etc. are also – voluntarily – bound by such EU rules) as all producers can compete on a level playing field, and consumers in every country know that they are getting the same information on which to base their purchases as those in every other, it also significantly reduces costs for both governments and producers, as only one set of rules and regulations has to be adhered to and maintained, rather than 27+.

You can dispute the *need* for such regulations if you so choose. However, the fact that 99% of all countries in the world *have* such regulations would tend to suggest that your utopian dream of market self-regulation is pretty far from being attainable. In the meantime, the EU’s rationalisation of the packaging regulations of 27+ countries is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways of maintaining standards and ensuring the free-flow of capital within the market that anyone has ever come up with anywhere in the world.

Span Ows said...

Thanks Nosemonkey: a vital point that you mention re the standard opt-out.

Mike said...

@Span Ows: Yes. It's that simple.