Taking the biscuit (and the scone, cupcake, fairy cake…)

Euromyths are funny things. They can be because one individual inspector gets heavy about something. They can be because EU rules are usually minimum standards and a country has chosen to go further when putting them into national law. In a few cases the myth itself is that they’re a myth, when we accept that the rules say what people say they do, even if we want to change them. And sometimes they are just total nonsense, which with 5 minutes checking would never make it out there. We had one of those this weekend, with the “news” that EU rules are stopping people eating the cakes that they enter into cake-baking contests and the like at village fairs. I will quote directly from the guidance that we issue to the national authorities that implement these rules:

Operations such as the occasional handling, preparation, storage and serving of food by private persons at events such as church, school or village fairs are not covered by the scope of the Regulation. This is made clear in recital 9 of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004. The second sentence states that: “Community rules should only apply to undertakings, the concept of which implies a certain continuity of activities and a certain degree of organisation”. The term “undertaking” is integrated in the definition of a “food business” (in accordance with Article 3(2) of the General Food Law (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002), a “food business” must be an “undertaking”).  Somebody who handles, prepares, stores or serves food occasionally and on a small scale (e.g. a church, school or village fair and other situations such as organised charities comprising individual volunteers where the food is prepared occasionally) cannot be considered as an “undertaking” and is therefore not subject to the requirements of Community hygiene legislation.

So the European Commission’s view is that cakes prepared in the framework of local fairs should not be subject to the requirements of Community hygiene legislation. Which I’m very pleased about, because I love the cake stalls at fairs, particularly in the light of my cupcake problem. (The best I have ever had, for the record, were in Grand Central Station, New York. Mouth still waters at the thought of them!). I’d be interested to know how this idea made it into the Scottish Rural Women’s Institute or any other groups, because it clearly isn’t part of our rules.





Filed under Euromyths

2 responses to “Taking the biscuit (and the scone, cupcake, fairy cake…)

  1. I don’t think that indemnifies the EU of responsibility for the creeping authoritarianism in UK, but it does demonstrate that there is a more complex relationship at play between the EU, national government and local governments. Often, the shroud of EU legislation acts as an enabler for the domestic bureaucracy to extend its reach, not necessarily the prime mover. Compare this with the communications data bill where the Home Office, finding it difficult to introduce an unpopular surveillance policy via normal parliamentary channels (with proper democratic oversight), simply shoved the idea up to the EU level where it could be implemented without as much scrutiny – essentially exporting one of the worst ideas to come out of Whiltehall to every European government! http://p10.hostingprod.com/@spyblog.org.uk/blog/2008/05/communications-data-bill-announced.html

    As ever, there is also the “chill” factor at play where even legitimate activities are banned in order not to risk approaching anything that is illegal according to legislation (that should not even be trying to regulate these activities). Note the definition you quote is not especially restrictive. It gives an example of an undertaking and a few examples of things that are not undetakings. No guarantee that such an explanatory note would be enforceable in a court of law – especially if it hasn’t been accounted for properly by our own civil servants when drafting the legislation.

  2. Moray

    Not part of Europe’s rules, and seemingly not part of Scotland’s rules either – the Food Hygiene (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/ssi2006/20060003.htm) speak pretty specifically about “food business operator” which I doubt could ever be convincingly used to described Mrs Macatasney from Auchnagatt and her Dundee Cake at the Kirk Fair. It looks to me that the SRWI need a new legal advisor.

    Nick’s comment is interesting – he seems to be saying that it’s the EU’s responsibility to control the creeping authoritarianism in the UK! Sorry, but that’s for the UK voters to control. If the UK is gold-plating EU Directives by making them stricter that needed, then the UK’s elected representatives need to hold the executive to account.

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