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.)