Myth: EC legislation is threatening to put British cockle-pickers out of business thanks to hygiene regulations that came into effect on 1.1.1993 in which they are obliged to steam their catch at 90C for some 90 seconds. To enforce these regulations cockle-traders are required to install very expensive tachograph-style instruments in order to prove to environmental health inspectors that the temperature is kept high enough for long enough.
Response: This is only partially correct. The relevant EC Directive (*) actually only applies to molluscs not suitable for direct human consumption because they are harvested in polluted waters; the level of pollution is specified in Points lb and 1c of Directive 91/492/EEC. This directive also stipulates that it is up to the Member States to classify their fishing zones under the categories “clean” and “polluted”. Without the steaming process outlined above the molluscs would have to be subjected to purification treatments before they could be placed on the market for direct human consumption.
Steaming was in fact originally a method peculiar to the UK and Spain. It is in fact at these two countries’ request that this piece of legislation will have been introduced throughout the EC.
Moreover, it has also been wrongly alleged that cockle-traders must buy tachograph-style instruments. Actually the person in charge of the heat treatment need only keep up a register including details on the cooking process itself; these registers must be available at any time for consultation by national inspectors or by experts from the Commission.
(*) – Commission Decision 93/25/EEC, 11.12.1992.