This EU scare story smells off

There’s something I kind of love about how certain newspapers always start their headlines with “NOW”. The word is always completely pointless grammatically and logically – after all, anything you see in a newspaper can reasonably be assumed to have happened “NOW”, rather than at any other time – but it always conjures up a vision of someone watching this great vista of petty human misery pan past on a conveyor belt, à la The Generation Game. “NOW even PATIOS will need planning permission! And NOW Eurocrats tell drivers to keep car lights on all day! And NOW sparrowhawks stop people from smoking! And NOW Muslims demand full Sharia law! And NOW GPs will be paid to encourage girls to have sex! And NOW they want dads to learn how to breastfeed! And NOW a cuddly toy!”

Of course, the great benefit of the word is that even if the story itself turns out to be utter bollocks – the story about GPs being paid to tell girls to have sex is actually about GPs being paid to promote long-term contraceptives over other less reliable types, for instance – you imagine there must have been some great build up of things that were almost as bad happening in the past. Of course not all Muslims actually are demanding Sharia law, and the few that are have been demanding it for years (though without the same media visibility that the topic has had lately), but if you say NOW Muslims are demanding Sharia, it sounds like this is the latest in a long line of unspecified impossible demands from British Muslims.

Anyway, NOW the Express has the headline “NOW the EU wants to stop us labelling our milk fresh“.

Firstly of course, it’s not just “our” milk. It’s not as if the EU said “God damn it, we really hate those Brits. Let’s make some arbitrary change to their milk labelling restrictions. That’ll show ‘em!” This affects milk sold right across Europe – I’d imagine it’s aimed particularly at countries like Spain and Italy, where most milk sold is UHT or chemically treated, and there is genuine potential for confusion. Nor is the EU per se that’s proposed this – it’s an amendment suggested by the European Green Party to a food labelling bill currently being debated.

Secondly, it’s not all milk, just milk that has been chemically treated so it can be drunk for more than 7 days after opening (or possibly after bottling – sources are a little vague). Almost all milk sold in the UK appears to recommend that it’s drunk in 3.

Incidentally, I just had a look in our fridge. We have a bottle of Robert Wiseman Dairies milk and a bottle of Tesco milk, and neither one has the word “fresh” anywhere on the label. Nor apparently does Sainsbury’s own-brand or Waitrose – I can’t find the Iceland or Morrisons own brand labels to compare. A couple of brands do – Cravendale says their milk “Stays fresh twice as long”, and St. Ivel has a product called “Fresh Milk with Omega-3″ – but since plenty of brands get by just fine without that word, the Express’s claims that getting rid of the word was cause public confusion is rubbish. People already know how to tell the difference between pasteurised milk and UHT milk – UHT has “UHT” printed on it in big letters and is not stored in the supermarket fridges.

As it stands, I do think this proposal is a little ill-thought out – it’s too vague, it doesn’t mention whether using refrigeration or sterile bottles to extend milk life is allowed, nor whether non-chemical means of preservation are allowed (like Cravendale’s filtration system) – but in the end, the very worst that could happen, if the proposal became law, would be a couple of companies having to tweak the wording of their labels; and it’s hard to argue that week-old milk could be described as “fresh” anyway.

  1. The Express and vote-rigging « Atomic Spin

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