By Eric Crampton 25/01/2017


One way to help shore up public support for Brexit when there’s been a bit of post-referendum second-thoughts: vigilant enforcement of the stupidest possible Eurocrat regulations. Remind Britons why they want to leave.

And the Eurocrats have come up with a doozey. Chris Snowdon points to the coming EU campaign against baked potatoes.

Pubs and restaurants could soon be fined for serving well-done items such as triple-cooked chips or thin and crispy pizza under a second phase of the Government’s crackdown on burnt food.

Following the launch of a major public awareness campaign yesterday to help people reduce “cancer-causing” acrylamide in food, the Daily Telegraph can reveal that food safety watchdogs are planning to extend the warning to every food-serving business in Britain.

Under a new European Union food hygiene directive, due to be adopted in the UK by the the end of 2017, pubs and restaurants will be told to take reasonable steps to reduce acrylamide in food or face enforcement measures.

Everything that’s tasty or good in life may cause cancer. Everything then is a question of relative risk. What’s the relative risk of burnt toast? Here’s David Spiegelhalter at Cambridge’s Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication:

So, for example, adults with the highest consumption of acrylamide could consume 160 times as much and still only be at a level that toxicologists think unlikely to cause increased tumours in mice (that’s essentially what the ‘margin of exposure’ means).

This all seems rather reassuring, and may explain why it’s been so difficult to observe any effect of acrylamide in diet. But, for cancer, toxicology committees demand a rather arbitrary margin of exposure of 10,000 before considering the chemical essentially acceptable. That’s 33 times higher than the current margin for average adults in the UK — making acrylamide fall short of this very stringent safety standard, and this is the basis for the FSA’s campaign.

So the EU wants to impose fines on pubs serving tasty chips because of something that would be unlikely to cause tumours in animals at 160 times the current highest human consumption of the stuff.

Brussels is full of Vogons. I’m not sure that Briton’s home-grown Vogons will be much better post-Brexit, but at least they’ll be rid of the ones from Brussels.

* Fortunately, just smelling burnt toast doesn’t cause cancer yet, but it may be a sign of other things. Here’s your Canadian Heritage minute.

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