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Brussels, 15 April 2004

Myths and misunderstandings about food, drink and EU enlargement

Each corner of Europe produces food and drink it is intensely proud of - from Scotland's haggis (otherwise known as sheep offal stuffed with oatmeal) to the extremely alcoholic Cypriot firewater Zivania. Any perceived threat from EU legislation to treasured, regional cuisine can quickly spark column inches in newspapers.

Heard in the Czech Republic: "Under EU law, cream cakes cannot be sold without a wrapper."

False - The EU's hygiene rules require steps to be taken to prevent the spread of germs in places where food is sold, but this does not necessarily mean that cream cakes must be sold in wrappers. Cream cakes are sold without wrappers in a number of EU countries.

The Czech government's new hygiene regulations are based on EU standards but they are stricter than similar legislation in many current Member States.

Heard in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic "The private slaughtering of pigs will be banned, along with home-made meat specialities."

False - Member States are entitled to allow the home-slaughter of pigs, chickens, rabbits, sheep and goats, provided the animals are being killed for personal consumption by their owners. Of course, meat being sold commercially will have to come from animals killed in slaughter-houses that comply with EU rules on hygiene and humane slaughter.

Heard in Poland: "Marinated cucumbers from Poland, known as ogórek kiszony, will be banned."

False - There were fears that the EU would ban the production of ogórek kiszony because the cucumbers used for marinating are very small and do not conform to European standards. The truth is there are no problems with either the marinating process or the size of Polish cucumbers. But ogórek kiszony was a subject of debate because there are no restrictions at all on cucumbers weighing less than 180g and a new way had to be found to categorise them for the European market.

Heard in Poland: "Poland will not be allowed to produce its beloved Wyborowa vodka or other famous names because some EU companies have bought the trademark and a piece of Polish tradition!"

False - The root of the rumour lies in the sale of the Polish company, which makes the vodka, to a French company. There are no rules preventing the drink being made in Poland as it always has been, but Wyborowa is a commercial trademark unlike other famous vodkas such as Siwucha or ubrówka. Both of these are protected product names associated with a particular Polish region.

Heard in Cyprus: "The Cypriot firewater Zivania will almost double in price when Cyprus joins the EU."

Almost true - Zivania will face a 60-70% price rise due to new tax rules when Cyprus joins the EU next year. During accession negotiations, Cyprus asked the EU to exempt excise duties on Zivania, but the Cypriot government has now accepted that the famous firewater will have to be taxed like any other drink with a high percentage of alcohol. Cyprus succeeded in getting the EU to recognise Zivania as a regional trademark, keeping it unique to the Mediterranean island state.

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