Tuesday 29 June 2010

Shock as EU says: 'You can still buy a dozen eggs if you want'

The Mail on Sunday's front page headline was one of those you see and just know is probably not true:

It's a tabloid favourite - look at what those meddling Europeans are trying to ban now. The last notable example was the Express' 'ban' on milk jugs which the paper eventually admitted was total rubbish.

But it says much about the attitude to the EU that a newspaper thinks this is both true and a front page story. Inevitably, many people who also hate the EU start to believe it too.

But the EU is to ban people buying eggs by the dozen? Really? You mean we won't be able to go anywhere and buy 12 eggs?

Who can seriously believe that?

Well, Iain Dale, for one. He claimed the story was 'well-sourced' and even stooped so low as to say 'you really couldn't make it up'.


He added that, in future, we definitely won't be able to buy limes individually either. How can anyone think that you won't be able to go and buy one lime if you want to?

Back to the article and Mail on Sunday hack Christopher Leake wrote:

British shoppers are to be banned from buying eggs by the dozen under new regulations approved by the European Parliament.

For the first time, eggs and ­other products such as oranges and bread rolls will be sold by weight instead of by the number contained in a packet.

So even if you accept that this is what the proposed EU regulations say (it's not), the idea that someone would go and pick up a six-egg-shaped box of eggs and not know there are six eggs inside, because the packet has 372g on the side, defies belief.

The Mail on Sunday tried to pretend that all this will add a burden to the industry as all eggs will have to weighed but, as John Band has pointed out, eggs are already classified by their weight anyway. Moreover, NoseMonkey has explained that the resolution 'makes precisely no mention of outlawing selling by numbers'.

Yet other media outlets regurgitated the story, including the Telegraph, BBC, Mirror and Sun.

Then the Mail added fuel to the fire, with two follow-up stories by Steve Doughty: Leave our eggs alone Tories warn Brussels and We won't let Brussels stop you buying eggs by the dozen, ministers promise.

But just after 11am this morning, the European Parliament issued a statement:

MEPs are neither trying to ban the sale of eggs by the dozen nor the sale or marketing of Nutella. MEP Renate Sommer, who is steering legislation on food labelling through the European Parliament, said, "There will be no changes to selling foods by number. Selling eggs by the dozen, for example, will not be banned."

'Selling eggs by the dozen will not be banned'. That's odd given the Mail on Sunday very clearly said:

The European Parliament statement continued:

No ban on eggs by the dozen
Selling eggs by the dozen will not be illegal under the terms of the amendments adopted by the European Parliament to EU food labelling proposals. Labels will still be able to indicate the number of food items in a pack, whether of eggs, bread rolls or fish fingers.

Labelling by weight
Reports that claim the new rules will not allow both the weight and the quantity to be displayed are also wrong. The new food labelling regulation does not affect existing EU rules on the size of eggs: There are four official sizes of eggs: very large (73g and over), large (63g to 73g), medium (53g to 63g), and small (under 53g) - this will not change.

That statement emerged almost exactly nine hours ago (at time of writing). And yet, in sharp contrast to the three articles about the ban, the Mail hasn't apparently found the time to produce an article containing the very clear denial from the EU.

So will they do the honourable thing and correct the false impression?

Or will they conveniently 'forget' - as they did with the case of the boy who wasn't thrown off a bus for wearing an England shirt - and let their readers continue to believe that the EU really are banning the sale of eggs by the dozen. Even when they know that's simply not true.

UPDATE (Wednesday) - Well, the Mail did publish an article at 5:23am saying 'eggs by the dozen will NOT be banned'. But rather than admit they got it completely wrong, they have tried to save face and claim the u-turn came about in the face of a 'backlash by Britain' - making it seem as if the 'outrage' caused by the Mail on Sunday article changed their minds.

This article hasn't made the front page of today's paper (as the original did) and is also buried half-way down the website homepage - unlike the original which was top story, or close to it, for most of Sunday.


  1. Another blog with a mention of the eggs fiasco is Anna Raccoon at http://www.annaraccoon.com/politics/the-baker%E2%80%99s-dozen/

  2. You might like this as a response to Dale's predictable nonsense post


  3. I think it's a Mail mission statement that it will always portray the EU as a power mad, grasping, insane behemoth - even if they have to lie to do so. They will never retract this story and it will turn into one of those perennial right wing middle class ghost stories. "Come closer and I'll tell you of the night the EU got loose..."

  4. I suspect we will get lots of similar stories over the next few months as Cameron and Hague try and score cheap points by appearing to be ptotecting the British way of life from all these meddling Europeans.

    I do like the fact that Caroline Spelman has been putting forward the Tories case claiming that people know what they are getting when they buy a dozen eggs. This from the woman who wasn't sure if he secretary was actually her secretary or her nanny!

  5. I'm not sure which is worse - the audacity of the people that come up with this tripe, or the willing naivety of the nitwits who swallow it. Sigh.

    Also wanted to say ; I've recently discovered this site, and going back over the archives, I'd just like to say thank you. For providing such and excellent, well-researched blog and a voice of reason - you've restored my faith in investigative journalism, and healthy British sceptism - Thanks!

  6. P.S - not quite sure if this si the place to ask, please remove if I've mucked up the rules, but where would I go to suggest or link a few mindbogglingly inaacurate articles that surely need looking at with an eye?

  7. Angus - Thanks for your kind words - I really appreciate it. Send any tips and links to tabloidwatch [at] googlemail [dot] com

  8. As long as there is a market for crap, people will continue to sell it.

  9. Loads of scathing comments have passed moderation.



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