Boris Johnson’s kipper claim is a red herring

Published: 18th Jul 2019

In brief

Claim

EU regulation means kipper sellers must package their kippers in ice.

Conclusion

This is incorrect. The EU does not set any requirements on the temperature at which smoked fish must be transported. The temperature requirement is a UK regulation.

“I want you to consider 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 .”

Boris Johnson MP, 17 July 2019

Mr Johnson claimed at the final hustings for leadership of the Conservative party that EU regulation meant kipper sellers now have to ship their produce with ice.

The European Commission told us this is incorrect. It said the EU does not set temperature requirements on the sale of food products from the businesses to the final consumer—such sales to the consumer are not covered by EU food hygiene laws.

It added that there are regulations on the temperature of products sold by a business to another business, but that even these did not cover smoked fish­­—only fresh fishery products.  

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

We asked the UK Food Standards Agency whether there is a UK requirement on shipping kippers at a specific temperature. It told us: “In the UK, smoked kippers that are sold online must be kept to an acceptable temperature throughout transit. Businesses must ensure the materials used to do so are suitable for the food and the conditions of use.”

So the rules Mr Johnson is criticising were put in place by the UK, not the EU.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the Isle of Man itself is not part of either the UK or the EU—it is a “self-governing British Crown Dependency”, although it is part of the customs territory of the EU allowing free trade in various goods between the Isle and EU members.

Businesses exporting products, including fish, from the Isle of Man to the UK or any other EU country have to comply with EU food regulations.


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