Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up


9:00 am - June 28th 2010

by John B    


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The latest insane euromyth, as faithfully invented by the Daily Mail, is that the EU is planning to ban the sale of eggs by the dozen or half-dozen.

As usual, the Littlejohn Rule applies here: if the story sounds like something you “really couldn’t make up” (thanks, Mr Dale), then somebody doubtless has made it up.

The main thrust of the Daily Mail’s story is that under proposed EU legislation, it will be illegal to print “six eggs” on a box of six eggs. Instead, the quantity of eggage will have to be listed solely in kilogrammes.

This is simply – and really really obviously – false, and if you believe it then you’re doubtless someone who’s checked whether the word ‘gullible’ is really in the dictionary.

Here’s the actual legislation, proposed by the European Parliament. The quote that the press have misunderstood (or, more likely, lied about) is:

1. The net quantity of a food shall be expressed, using litres, centilitres, millilitres, kilograms or grams, as appropriate:

(a) in units of liquid in the case of liquids within the meaning of Council Directive 85/339/EEC of 27 June 1985 on containers of liquids for human consumption ;

(b) in units of mass in the case of other products.

In other words, all food that is sold in the EU will need to list either its volume (for liquids) or its mass (for solids) in metric units on the pack. Note the absence of anything banning the use of other indicators on the pack, such as “number of eggs”, “mass in pounds”, “number of moles of hydrogen atoms in the packet”, etc. Anyone who wishes to do so can advertise any or all of the above, as long as the metric unit of volume or mass is clearly marked. See: a pint of milk.

So the more outlandish claim, that the legislation would ban the sale of eggs in packs labelled as ’six’ or ‘12′, is obvious, total nonsense.

The only thing substantiating the piece at all is the Mail’s quote from an unnamed source at the UK’s Food Standards Agency, “Retailers would not be allowed to put ‘Six eggs’ on the front of the box.“. Whether the Mail has grossly misquoted the FSA spokesman, or whether the FSA spokesman is an idiot, is not clear. Either way, the quote is wrong.

A more sensible criticism of the proposed rule comes from The Devil’s Knife – that the change would cost food packagers money for very little benefit, wasting everyone’s time and resources:

Well, I would imagine that selling a 500g box of eggs that does not, in fact, contain 500g of produce is illegal under Trading Standards. So now the egg producers are going to have to weigh each and every box, and stamp the exact weight on each box. Not only will they have to buy the stamping equipment (because you can bet your bottom dollar that just writing the weight on is not legal: they even have to stamp each individual egg now, for fuck’s sake) but it is also labour-intensive.

Well, this would be true, except that eggs are already graded by weight – e.g. a ‘large’ egg weighs 63-73g – which requires them to be weighed. And under EU labelling rules, positive errors are allowed on packaging, as are negative errors of 3% (for a package that weighs 300-500g, like six large eggs).

So if the new rules do come in, an egg producer who wished to comply with them at zero cost could just add ‘weight 385g’ to all their boxes of large eggs, and otherwise carry on as before.

Meanwhile, an egg producer who wanted to emphasise the fact that their large eggs were super-large could put the actual weight if they chose, based on the grading by weight that they would have done anyway.

Obviously, this would require more complicated software for labelling; whether the producer views it as worthwhile or not depends on whether they reckon it’ll help them make money. Like, erm, most commercial decisions…

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About the author
John Band is a journalist, editor and market analyst, depending on who's asking and how much they're paying. He's also been a content director at a publishing company and a strategy consultant. He is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy and also blogs at Banditry.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Europe ,Foreign affairs ,Media

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Reader comments


Well, it’s the Daily Mail. They also “quoted” Steve Jobs as saying they might recall the iPhone 4 until they realised it was from a fake Steve Jobs twitter account and then the page not-so-mysteriously disappeared.

Thanks for doing the research. Given that the Mail alleged that Britain was losing an opt-out, and I bought six eggs in Paris when I was on holiday there last month, it was obviously lies.

Thanks John.

I did try and tell Iain Dale that it was crap, but as usual, he wasn’t for listening. Conclusion: Dale is either leaning to the same agenda as the Rothermere and Murdoch press, he’s credulous, or he’s stupid.

As Dale has been around the Fourth Estate long enough, he ain’t credulous. He certainly isn’t stupid (wilful, maybe, but not stupid) and that leaves only one choice.

Why does he do it? What purpose is there in openly spraying your credibility up the wall? Is there a by-election coming up and a likelihood of him getting on the Tory shortlist?

And we need this change in packaging because?

And this is the sort of decision that should be made by the European Union because?

And it benefits our lives how?

6. libertarian

I’ve got a chicken. It lays eggs I sell them at the gate to local people who are passing by. I cannot get my chicken to lay eggs with 83 g printed on it.

Naughty chicken, do you think it’s a Little Englander Daily Mail reading chicken?

Tim @5:
The easy one is “and this is the sort of decision that should be made by the EU because” – if you have a common trade area, then it’s essential to have common labelling, weights and measures across it, otherwise people will get confused and ripped off. That’s why some of the very earliest recorded English legislation is in setting standard weights and measures across the kingdon.

“And it benefits our lives how?” is the same as “And we need this change in packaging because?”, as far as I can see. The answer to both is ‘probably not very much in this specific case, but the harm caused is also pretty much zero, it’s simpler to have consistent regulation across food categories rather than myriads of exceptions, and in most cases mandating labelling by mass or volume is helpful because it allows easy calculations of unit price across different product types’.

Libertarian @6:
If you’re literally passing on eggs to neighbours for pin money, then meh, you’re technically in breach of the assorted food processing, marketing and labelling rules anyway and have been since long before we joined the EU, but nobody minds.

Let’s get this clear – whether or not you think this kind of regulation is a good idea or not, the producers don’t bear the cost. The cost is passed on to the consumers.
That’s us.

Personally, John, I think an explicit comment by an FSA spokesperson has to bear rather more weight than you are prepared to give it. Though your article makes intuitive sense, and though stories like this have a tendency to be exaggerated, you have not even begun to explain that comment, and your assumption that an official FSA representative must be stupid or ignorant has no warrant whatever. The FSA, after all, is responsible for introducing and enforcing labelling regulations. With great respect, you are not.

Well, if this regulation makes it easier to compare prices in the supermarket between e.g. loose peppers (sold by weight, price per kg shown) and a pack of three (sold by number, price per pepper shown) then it has a clear benefit.

7 – all good points actually, and I withdraw my intemperate comment. On the other hand, a legislative proposal that has as its prime reason for being:

The merging of those texts (directives) into a single piece of legislation (regulation) will maximise synergies.

is clearly the work of the devil.

@cjcjc (8): Assuming the market for eggs is perfectly competitive, all market participants have perfect access to market information, and therefore egg prices perfectly reflect the costs of production: why yes, of course the exact cost of stamping the boxes will be passed on to consumers.

But in the real world? Um… probably not. We have an extremely distorted and market for eggs, being that they are mainly sold by a tiny handful of supermarkets (possibly as a loss leader, not sure) who keep track on a minute-by-minute basis of each others’ prices.

This specific regulation is still a stupid idea, though. I hear no clamour to prevent fraudulent selling of undersized eggs. It’s also not ‘zero harm’ regulation: this legislation again favours big producers over small (no doubt the reason why there is pressure for it to happen, since big producers have lobbying power at the EU). The capital cost of sticking a weighing and stamping stage into the production process for Tesco is no doubt negligible (they probably already do it for internal monitoring purposes anyway). The capital cost for a small producer, though, could push them over the edge.

jungle: “[Adding] a weighing and stamping stage”

Eggs are *already* weighed and stamped. That’s how they are classified (by weight, which is described as medium, large, etc) and marked with the lion mark.

So the cost of slightly amending the label design to include the weight (which doesn’t need to be exact, merely not overstated) is about five minutes of someone with Adobe Illustrator.

Yes, buying eggs by the dozen or half-dozen is evidently banned in France:

http://courses.monoprix.fr/magasin-en-ligne/achat-acheter-Oeufs-5142901,rayons,Aucun,Toutes,1,0,.html

15. John Linford

Given that the weights are clearly defined anyway, the whole thing seems a bit pointless on the part of the EU…

Via Helen, here’s a box of 6 eggs sold by weight. The eggs are 63-73g; the pricing per kilo assumes 61g per egg. This means that the supermarket doesn’t need to weigh the boxes, it just knows that they’ll always be legal. The lesson endeth.

(pricing by kg is compulsory in Australia too; tomorrow I’ll go to the supermarket and do the same calculation. With, I’m pretty certain, the same results…)

@15 well yes, except that only people who bother to research egg grades on the internet know what the price/kg is, whereas under the proposal everyone would…

One thing John left out – but a pertinent one: For all those complaining about the cost burden of adding weights to egg boxes (even though, erm…, most egg boxes already have weights on them), I suggest you check out the *existing* regulations about what needs to be put on food packaging.

Have any of the knee-jerking anti-EU crowd done that? No? What a surprise…

If they had, they’d find that these proposals *reduce* the amount of detail that needs to be put on food packaging, thus cutting costs for all involved. This is about *deregulation* – the precise opposite of what the Mail and co (through ignorance or wilful deception) seem to think.

Not just the Mail… BBC is on the bandwagon:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/10432128.stm

Tim Jerk making a fool of himself as usual.

Always amusing watching the tory tarts defend the lies of the Daily wail.

21. Charlieman

I think that there is a serious political point surrounding this story.

As John B has identified, the story has little foundation — a wee discovery that producers have to label the box containing six eggs correctly to ensure that it meets the minimum mass requirement.

Did any politician (any party) project a neck into public discourse? Or were they all at home watching the Yes Minister 1984 christmas special (about the definition of British sausages)?

22. Matt Munro

I think this will discriminate against small producers. I can buy eggs from a farm shop where they are sold by the unit – added chicken shit and feathers are free. Is the farmer supposed to buy a weighing and packaging machine now ?

As others have said the precise detail is irrelevant, the fact is this regulation appears to be classic, cliche EU regulation – totally self serving, change for it’s own sake, solves no known problem (As far as I’m aware egg consumers aren’t crying out for eggs to be sold by weight) adds no value, and will just add cost and burocracy to producers and thus consumers whilst increasing the span of the dead hand of the EU superstate.

Matt Munroe @22 – Have you got any idea what the existing egg packaging requirements are, or are you just assuming that this is a new thing?

The problem the new regulation would solve is precisely that existing legislation requires vast reams of info to be included on food packaging.

24. Matt Munro

@ 23 – I don’t know what the requirements are but the farmer uses cardboard trays, loose ones, completely blank, as are the eggs.

You are saying that the huge problem of too much information on egg boxes is solved by standardising that information in an EU sactioned format ?

@24 the farmer isn’t in compliance with the current regulations (WHICH EXISTED BEFORE THE UK JOINED THE EU), in that case. But because he’s a small farmer, not a big retailer, and the regulations are enforced sensibly, they’re not being enforced against him. This will continue under the new regulations.

Matt @24 – Yes, yes I am saying it’s better to have this sort of thing decided at EU level. Because:

1) It’s a fair assumption that we’d have regulations like this even without EU membership – because countries *world-wide* (not just in the EU) have laws and regulations determining what has to be included on food labels.

2) This is not *just* about eggs – it covers all kinds of food packaging

3) Without a centrally-agreed set of rules and regulations for product labelling, we’d have *at least* 27 different variations that any exporting producers would need to comply with

4) Standardisation => ease of production (for the farmers), ease of understanding (for the consumers), and ease of export (for those farmers who export their produce)

As such, one centrally-agreed set of standards is *infinitely* cheaper and more efficient for all concerned.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. kevinrye

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  4. Substandard Nerd

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  5. Tory Reform Group

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  8. Dicky Moore

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  11. Deryn

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  15. Brownhills Bob

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  16. timhobbs

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  21. 5 Chinese Crackers

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  25. Humphrey Cushion

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  26. Rick

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  27. North Briton

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  28. John West

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  29. Juliet

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  30. John Belford

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  31. Natalya

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  32. Jared Ficklin

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  33. Anna

    RT @libcon Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  34. peterdcox

    Another Daily Mail EU regulations lie debunked http://ow.ly/241rw Six Eggs are Safe! How does the PCC let them get away with it? Lies, Lies.

  35. Liam Davies

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  36. Alex Guite

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  37. Derek Wall

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  38. Nautilus in Red

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  39. Hannah Nicklin

    Why do people believe this? RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? THEY MADE IT UP http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  40. Hannah M

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  41. Jude Shirres

    RT @libcon Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/9S6jMu

  42. Andrew Tindall

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  43. /jess bradley

    Unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail makes shit up RT @hannahnicklin RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? THEY MADE IT UP http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  44. Andrea

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  45. Luke Montague

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  46. Sam Goodby

    This is why the EU gets a bad name. RT @libcon Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  47. Chris Mills

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  48. John O'Shea

    RT @AdamBienkov: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br -> Shock – Daily Mail embroidered facts on anti-EU story

  49. Belfegore

    RT @hannahnicklin: Why do people believe this? RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? THEY MADE IT UP http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  50. Libby Miller

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  51. Matt Raven

    @Schofe You might want to read this about the eggs thing… http://ow.ly/242sH

  52. Andrew Bowden

    @powmerton @muMaternity nuts and made up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  53. Mönk

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  54. Leon

    Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up | Liberal Conspiracy http://instapaper.com/zLzb93iZ

  55. Matthew Smith

    How the Mail distorted the "banning sale of eggs by the dozen" story that was on its front page yesterday: http://is.gd/d7wb1

  56. Amanda Bromwich

    @DLoesch: what's idiotic is your sensationalist blog post. Read more than 1 source, and maybe the legislation: http://bit.ly/c5j2FE

  57. jonygee33

    Media egging on the sceps
    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/28/dozen-eggs-banned-yes-they-did-make-it-up/

  58. Matthew Doye

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  59. EU to ban selling eggs by the dozen... Any Comments? - Page 2 - I don't feel 50 Forums

    […] More accurate info on this eggy issue… Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up | Liberal Conspiracy […]

  60. Mhairu McLaughlin

    RT @El_Cuervo: @Schofe You might want to read this about the eggs thing… http://ow.ly/242sH

  61. sunny hundal

    Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  62. Daniel Gray

    RT @sunny_hundal Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  63. Lucy Palmer

    Aha! See? Yeah… yeah… *Knowing look.* RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  64. Girish Gupta

    Course they did. Well done for looking into it. RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  65. Roland Ellison

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  66. Josh R

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  67. Ben Furberhttp://a1.

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  68. Daniel Nisbet

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  69. David Rickard

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  70. Anthony Painter

    “@benfurber: RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br” << Surprise, surprise.

  71. Girish Gupta

    Why Mr @Twittlejohn is it okay for your paper to print BOLLOCKS? http://goo.gl/Z45K and http://goo.gl/Vukr. These people get PAID!

  72. Sam Knight

    RT @benfurber: RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  73. James Garner

    Upset by this post on @libcon http://bit.ly/8Y7Q6D – 12 is a preposterous quantity for eggs to be sold in #BanEggsByTheDozen

  74. Lefty Lisa

    RT @benfurber: RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  75. Altany

    RT @Lefty_Lisa: RT @benfurber: RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  76. Nadia

    Say it again – rename it the Daily #Fail. RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br.

  77. Si Evans

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  78. Joseph Brown

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  79. James Graham

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  80. Kate

    Fuck's sake, Daily Fail at it again! RT@sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br #fail

  81. Katy R

    @beckycraven Except it's actually not true. Eggs can still be sold by the dozen: http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  82. Iain Murray

    RT @null_loop: RT @sunny_hundal Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  83. gwyn bailey

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  84. Mark Hughes

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  85. Stephen Mullen

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  86. Alex Carlill

    @shrtstck told you: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/28/dozen-eggs-banned-yes-they-did-make-it-up/

  87. Gaina

    RT @sunny_hundal: Dozen eggs banned by the EU? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  88. Joshua G B Hardy

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  89. Robert Rainthorpe

    In case you're in the habit of believing the Daily Mail et al., here's a rapid debunk of the 'banned dozen eggs' myth: http://bit.ly/d4NtXa

  90. David Hanson

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  91. sunny hundal

    @John_Demetriou this is a better explanation: http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  92. Matthew Deaves

    Oh dear, BBC and Guardian have stories about the EU banning "dozen eggs" You couldn't make that up! Oh wait, the Mail did http://goo.gl/Z45K

  93. Hot In Business

    Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up | Liberal Conspiracy http://shrten.com/2os2

  94. David Wragg

    Daily mail in egg euromyth shocker http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/28/dozen-eggs-banned-yes-they-did-make-it-up/

  95. Andrew Ducker

    Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/dhLHrD

  96. Adam Farnell

    RT @jammastergirish: Why Mr @Twittlejohn is it okay for your paper to print BOLLOCKS? http://goo.gl/Z45K and http://goo.gl/Vukr. These people get PAID!

  97. Paul Crowley

    RT @dwragg: Daily mail in egg euromyth shocker http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/28/dozen-eggs-banned-yes-they-did-make-it-up/

  98. Rupert Baines

    EU to ban eggs by the dozen? "You couldn't make it up". Oh yes you could. Another myth. http://bit.ly/amfSsW

  99. Joachim

    #dailymail peddles crap yet again: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/28/dozen-eggs-banned-yes-they-did-make-it-up/

  100. Fifty Quid Soundboy

    @mrhtou you do know that eggs thing is bullshit, don't you? http://is.gd/d8SZM

  101. Tom Royal

    @DavidWorsfold I'd say it's that kind of story that gives the BBC a bad name. It's nonsense: http://bit.ly/97m4CT

  102. David Constable

    RT @libcon: Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/asA3Br

  103. Greg Eden

    @georgelyonmep um, no they don't http://j.mp/9YVUle

  104. Greg Eden

    @noeticat um, no they don't http://j.mp/9YVUle

  105. Youssef

    RT @libcon Dozen eggs banned? Yes, they did make it up http://bit.ly/9S6jMu

  106. Matthew Doye

    RT @Derek_Haines Eggs by the dozen will NOT be banned, say Brussels after backlash by Britain /1lie after another http://tinyurl.com/32burq9

  107. Mail claims “backlash” saved UK’s dozen eggs | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] “report” was by a certain newspaper that completely misrepresented what EU legislation actually […]

  108. loveandgarbage

    @jackofkent Lib Con had links to it though from here: http://bit.ly/8Y7Q6D





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