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A narrow victory over political correctness

By Russell Grenning - posted Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Students of politics and fans of Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister will recall that it was a proposal by the European Union bureaucrats to try and rename the British sausage as the emulsified high-fat offal tube that was seized upon by Minister Hacker in his successful bid to become Prime Minister. Hacker rightly argued that the good old British public would not have a bar of this sort of nonsense.

And, once again, life imitates art or, at least, an enduringly popular situation comedy.

The European Parliament, an institution not usually commented upon for admirable common sense, has recorded a rare victory over political correctness and refused to ban the doner kebab.


Perhaps surprisingly, the European Commission proposed permitting the use of phosphates in the meat of the tasty snack originally of Turkish origin to reflect current practice and, wholly predictably, the Socialists and Greens in the European Parliament tried to block the Commission despite the fact that phosphates are permitted in certain sausages and are present naturally in protein-rich foods including meats, nuts and dairy products.

To block the Commission's decision would have required 376 votes but the final tally fell three short and was lost 373-272 with 30 abstentions.

The Centre-Right which is the largest group in the Parliament had argued that the blocking of phosphates in kebab meat, judged important for flavour and juiciness, could lead to 200,000 job losses across Europe, more than half of them in Germany.

In a typical yet curious example of their nanny state policy, the Greens MP proposing the ban described the vote as a "sad day for consumer rights which have been trampled on". Very possibly, he was under the impression that consuming doner kebabs in Europe was compulsory as the argument by the Socialists and Greens asserted that the phosphates were a health risk for cardiovascular diseases. While they wouldn't dare admit it, the Greens and their Socialist allies believe that people are far too stupid to decide for themselves what they might eat. Thus, Big Brother has to protect people from themselves as it is not a consumer's right to eat what they like.

However, it runs the risk of being only a short-term victory. In 2018, the European Food Safety Agency plans to re-evaluate the safety of phosphate food additivies and the socialists and greens are demanding that the matter be re-visited unless the Agency can categorically prove that there is not the slightest health risk.

But despite this narrow and possibly temporary victory by common sense, the march of the nanny state internationally shows no sign of giving up.


For any number of reasons, various countries have banned certain foods that are perfectly legal to consume in other countries. Sometimes food is banned or unbanned not for any health reason but because of politics. The saga about haggis in the USA illustrates the point.

Despite my Scottish heritage via my mother's family, I really cannot argue against the 1971 decision by the US Government to ban haggis because of the disgusting mess of offal it contains. In fact, I rather regard this decision as one of the few that the Nixon Administration took that is praiseworthy and has stood the test of time.

But with half-Scottish Donald Trump in the White House this ban could be removed. President Trump has allowed himself to be photographed grinning like a mad Cheshire cat at a haggis and he has tweeted that the best haggis is that produced by his Trump Turnberry luxury golf resort in Scotland. But Americans as yet have not been able to enjoy this national dish of Scotland on Burns Night on 25 January and Tartan Day on 6 April.

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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