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No, Mail on Sunday, the EU is (obviously) not banning yogurt and cheese from school dinners

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The Mail on Sunday on 9 February served its readers a headline skilfully cooked up to suggest the EU was going to ban cheese and yogurt from their kids’ school meals.

“Enjoy a yogurt at school? Hard cheese, says EU. Eurocrats want to ban snacks in healthy eating campaign”.

It went on: “Brussels bureaucrats want to stop British children being given cheese and yogurt at school.”

The paper drafted in experts to point out the blindingly obvious – that there is no danger in moderate portions of cheese.

It declined to point to another blindingly obvious fact: that “Brussels” cannot and does not want to ban British schools from serving dairy products.

By the time a few elements of reality crept into the story, it seems some readers were choking on their cornflakes with disgust at mental images of “Brussels bureaucrats” blockading school gates against yogurt lorries and depriving the nation’s youth of good old English cheddar.

One reader commented: “how did we get into a situation where unelected Eurocrats can dictate what our children eat for lunch?” Another fulminated about “faceless foreigners from the EU interfering in our lives”.

Presumably they did not get as far as the bit half way down the piece where Mail on Sunday finally lets slip that in fact this story is not about the prohibition of cheese at the school dinner table.

It is about proposals for changes to the EU School Milk and School Fruit Schemes, whereby “Brussels provides £ 8million a year for UK school breakfast clubs, morning snacks and lunch.”

A useful contribution no doubt to schoolkids’ diets, especially in disadvantaged areas, but merely a supplement to the school food provided by the UK authorities and containing just as much milk, cheese, yogurt and cream as those authorities think appropriate, without any EU involvement.

As if that were not enough, it is not even correct that the changes to the scheme will mean schools can no longer use it to provide yogurt or cheese.

The schemes were drawn-up against a background of declining consumption among children for milk and fruit and in a bid to help tackle poor nutrition.

The Commission published in complete transparency on 30 January proposals to revise the schemes and combine the milk and fruit elements to reduce red tape and make them more efficient. Those proposals will now go to Member States and the European Parliament for debate and amendment, so elected Ministers and MEPs will decide on the future of the schemes, just as they – and not “bureaucrats” – decide on all EU legislation

Under the Commission’s proposals, yogurt and cheese can still under certain circumstances be included as occasional supplements, though the scheme will focus on milk and fruit, as their consumption is continuing to decrease the most.

To underline just how much of a storm in a yogurt pot this story is, cheese and yogurt account for only a fifth of provision Europe-wide under the current milk scheme.

What is more – and this is perhaps where the Mail on Sunday story really takes the cream cracker –as far as the Commission is aware, the UK does not distribute cheese at all under the current EU scheme.

It may do so under national schemes, but those are not affected by the changes.

Of course, this type of journalism is on one level good for a laugh. On another it is pulling the wool over readers’ eyes and distorting debate.

British cheese faces extinction

Monday, May 10th, 1999

PA News, 10 May 1999
Gastronomes in Britain were today backing specialist varieties of cheese such as Cheddar, Cheshire and Lancashire which look set to be banned under EU rules. The cheeses, made by many of Britain’s small farms, use unpasteurised milk, a process the EU intends to ban following food poisoning scares.

This Euromyth, which first appeared in the press in 1992 when the Council adopted a directive on public health rules for the production and sale of raw-milk products including some cheeses, has appeared again. Then, as now the UK was at the forefront of demands for the directive.
The UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) recently have produced consultations on diary product hygiene and on raw milk production regulations. The directive states that milk should come from animals and holdings which satisfy the health and safety requirements and are inspected regularly. The cheese produced should comply with specific microbiological criteria. Checks must be made for listeria and salmonella etc. which children, pregnant women, the elderly and ill people are particularly susceptible to.
The European Commission and MAFF recognise that the cheese industry is important and there is absolutely no intention to ban any traditional cheese. Neither MAFF nor the European Commission plan to ban the use of unpasteurised milk. The explicit intention is to safeguard consumer health and confidence.

No more Caerphilly cheese in Caerphilly, says Brussels

Tuesday, April 25th, 1995

The last producer of Caerphilly cheese in Caerphilly has been forced to close having been told that it was illegal to take delivery of unpasteurised milk in metal churns.

Western Mail, p1, 25 April 1995

Daily Telegraph, p5, 25 April 1995

Daily Mail, p5, 25 April 1995

Daily Star, p9, 25 April 1995

The Sun, pp6 & 9, 25 April 1995

Daily Mirror, p13, 25 April 1995

Today, p15, 25 April 1995

The transportation of milk is governed by two Directives (Council Directive 92/46/EEC and 94/71/EEC) regulating the transportation of heat-treated and pasteurised milk from the farm to the dairy or processing plant. They ensure that churns and tanks of more than four litres must be ‘hermetically sealed before and during transport by means of a watertight sealing device’.
However, these provisions only apply to heat-treated or pasteurised milk. Raw or unpasteurised milk, though covered by both Directives, may still be transported in open churns. Despite this, general practice is to transport raw milk in sealed containers.
The producer is therefore able to receive milk in open churns and does not have to lay the 75ft pipeline reported in the press under European law.

EC to ban ploughman’s sadwiches

Thursday, June 10th, 1993

Statement: EC bureaucrats are responsible for stopping customers enjoying favourites such as a ploughman’s lunch thanks to a Directive regulating the temperature at which cheese may be served.

Response: This is untrue. There is a Directive dealing with the Hygiene of milk and dairy products (Ref: 92/46); however this does not cover the temperature at which cheeses may be served as it does not deal at all with sales direct to the customer. Moreover the Community has no intention of regulating in this area. Any such action is left to the Member States.

The Directive refers directly only to the temperature at which pasteurised milk needs to be stored. The one other reference to temperature deals with the temperature at which cheese should be transported and this is regulated by the manufacturer. It is up to the cheese producer to suggest the best temperature at which his product should be both stored and transported before it enters the retail network. This temperature is not enforced in any way; the manufacturer simply has to indicate at what temperature and for how long the product should be stored.

Milk-based product directive to outlaw soft cheeses

Wednesday, November 11th, 1992

Myth: The French media campaigned earlier this year against a proposed Directive laying down health rules for the production and placing on the market of raw milk and in particular milk-based products (soft cheeses etc).

Response: The Council adopted on 16.6.1992 (Official Journal L 268 of 14.9.1992) a Directive on health rules for the production and placing on the market of raw milk, heat-treated milk and milk-based products. This Directive will come into effect on 1.1.1994. As far as soft cheeses are concerned, the Directive states that the milk used should come from animals and holdings which satisfy the health and hygiene requirements and which are inspected regularly. The cheese produced should also comply with specified microbiological criteria (checks for Listeria, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, etc). Products may be withdrawn from the market if they fail to reach the compulsory criteria.

EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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