January 13, 2002
More than Meets the Eye
Far be it from me to resist an opportunity to stretch one entry into two.
The lumpy sauce story, while entertaining, appears to illustrate what happens when bureaucrats become too involved in the minutiae of regulations.*
I originally chose to ignore some of the undertones and overtones of the story for the sake of the humourous aspect.
For instance, I omitted the suggestion of "one source" cited in the Telegraph article that the lump rule had resulted from "deals done behind closed doors" involving the vested interests of "Mediterranean countries".
Perhaps if the source had been named I might have taken that on, perhaps not.
I preferred the explanation given in another article in The Scotsman:
"The Commission has never really explained why lumpy sauce has to be called a vegetable. Maybe itís because they fear that some people will try to sneak vegetables in and out of the European market disguised as sauces."
But again, the source of this quote was unnamed.
I received the following e-mail from Rien, who lives in the Netherlands, which I'm pasting here with his permission:
There's one thing to keep in mind: you're quoting an English paper.
Most of them are notoriously bad at telling EU news the way it is.
example, when the EU proposed to legally set a *minimum* condom size,
the English tabloids said Europe was threatening to cram the
*hu-u-u-uge* English willies into tiny continental
Same thing is happening with the new Euro currency now. Many English
politicians and news papers say they are now "considering" joining the
Euro market. As if they're doing the continent a favour. While in
reality they couldn't join if they wanted to, because as far as I know
their economy still doesn't meet the required Euro standards. It
didn't last year, anyway.
Back to the lumps. Of course some proposed EU regulations are
ridiculous, shit happens, but these silly rules never become law
anywhere. Personally I think this is some irrelevant oversight or
loophole in a food-law that's being turned into a major news story.
In England, that is. Where they don't hesitate to claim that this lump
rule "had been devised by mid-level officials from Mediterranean
countries to protect vested interests in their own countries."
Xenophobic or not, the role of the British press is examined in yet another article - in the Guardian, another British paper - which implied that the medium had been used as a lobbying tool by those wishing to have this rule abolished.
So what looks on the surface like an amusing story of bureaucratic overkill ends up reflecting serious, even nasty attitudes.
Unfortunately, we in Quebec are quite familiar with absurd laws and xenophobia; only six years ago, the then-Premier of Quebec blamed the defeat of the separation referendum on big business and the "ethnic" vote.
(He resigned the very next day.)
Our restrictive laws on the language of outdoor signs have been deemed by the U.N. as a violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.
But all that will probably be another entry, or series of entries. Eventually.
*This brought to mind the legendary definition of a camel:
-a horse designed by committee.
A couple of clicks at Google brought me to the originator of that phrase, Sir Alec Issigonis (1906-1988), a British automobile designer who created the Mini and the Morris Minor.
Yeah, research is FUN!
Thanks to the reader in Ireland who wrote to warn me of the evils of prawn cocktail crisps.
Notwithstanding, I'm still curious about the story that these articles alluded to; a web search turned up nothing.
I think I'll ask the guys over at Autumn Leaves - if anyone would know, they would...
Stay tuned for further developments.
"Over 30,000 quotes by 8,000 authors from Aristotle to Zappa!"
Fun for browsing or when you need to know who said that.
Or for journal writing prompts, for instance:
"All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire."
That's a whole week's worth of topics in one quote!
"There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."
Graphics courtesy of