EU: There’s something fishy about Johnson’s ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ kipper claim

Rules for Isle of Man kipper sellers described by Boris Johnson as “pointless” and imposed by “Brussels bureaucrats” are set in the UK and not part of EU legislation, an EU spokeswoman has confirmed.

Mr Johnson used his final hustings of the leadership campaign yesterday to deride the EU’s “pointless, expensive, environmentally damaging health and safety” with the use of a kipper and a plastic ice pillow.

The frontrunner for the Tory leadership held up the plastic-wrapped fish and told the audience: ‘I want you to consider this kipper”.

Addressing the crowd in east London, Mr Johnson went on: “This kipper, which has been presented to me just now by the editor of a national newspaper, who received it from a kipper smoker in the Isle of Man, who is utterly furious, because after decades of sending kippers like this through the post he has had his costs massively increased by Brussels bureaucrats, who have insisted that each kipper must be accompanied by this – a plastic ice pillow.

“Pointless, pointless, expensive, environmentally damaging health and safety, ladies and gentlemen.”

However, responding to Mr Johnson’s claims today, an EU spokeswoman said: “Our priority in the EU is the health of our citizens as well as safeguarding our standards in terms of public health and food safety – the highest in the world.

“While the food business operator has an obligation to meet the microbiological requirements to ensure the safety of its food, however the sale of products from the food business operator to the final consumer is not covered by EU legislation on food hygiene.

“The case described by Mr Johnson falls thus purely under UK national competence.”

Providing further detail, she said the sale of smoked fish to the final consumer is “excluded from the scope of the EU Regulation on food hygiene”, adding that temperature requirements for the sale “are thus a national competence”.

European health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis posted on Twitter: “Boris, the Isle of Man is not bound to the #EU ‘pointless and damaging’ *red tape* in #foodsafety that we are proud of because it protects consumers. You omitted to say that the Isle of Man is not in the EU. This packaging – #uk competence. Yet another smoke. #fakenews.”

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) advises retailers who sell food online that their products “must be delivered to consumers in a way that ensures that they do not become unsafe or unfit to eat”.

Specifically, it says: “Foods that need refrigerating must be kept cool while they are being transported. This may need to be packed in an insulated box with a coolant gel or in a cool bag.”

Neil Robson, managing director of the fourth generation family business L Robson & Sons situated in Craster on the Northumberland coast, said he was unaware of any changes to rules governing the sending of his products.

He told PA: “To be honest I’ve never heard of using ice pillows.

“We use a coolant when it’s warm – it’s a paper product that we soak in water and freeze because we’re trying to do away with plastic – but not in the middle of winter. It’s good practice.”

Kippers are produced from herrings, which are split and placed in a brine solution of plain salt and water before they are hung and smoked for up to 16 hours to preserve them.

L Robson & Sons then send the finished vacuum packed product to online customers in the UK by Royal Mail first class post.

It also supplies supermarkets using refrigerated transport, as well as markets, smaller farm shops, delicatessens and fishmongers.