Letters - Nanny State

In response to Sebastian Payne's column 'Nanny State', (SocietyNews, July 2009), you ask for an explanation of why we now have 'egg-white legislation'. The answer is very simple. There are hundreds of civil servants trying to justify their high wages and vast protected pensions. Having told us that knives are sharp; water is wet; and oven doors get hot, they have to find something to show they are all working very hard to protect us all with their patronising instructions. How I have reached my 80s and survived, I do not know!
Joyce Donald Hitchin, Herts

In my teenage years, I experienced a severe allergic reaction to a sulphur-based medication that I was prescribed for a kidney infection. I enjoy wine on a fairly regular basis, and had always put the fact that I develop a deep flush across my face, neck, chest and arms down to my own reaction to drinking alcohol. A few years ago, my husband noticed that the label on a wine we had purchased indicated that it contained sulphites. I subsequently determined that I actually experience a mild allergic reaction to the sulphur in wine. I have since determined that organic wines, which contain a lower concentration of sulphites (if any), do not cause me to have as severe a reaction.
Virginia Dixon Stevenage, Herts

Mr Payne makes the sound point that barely a homeopathic amount of egg white remains in wine so fined. Sadly, today, the mere fear of anything is sufficient to have it banned, labelled, taxed or regulated. Even my local police force claims to be 'reducing crime, disorder and fear'. Apart from being a rather patronising and self-aggrandising ambition, it has singularly failed to quell my fears that bureaucratic onslaught will make reading wine labels about as interesting as perusing a tax form.
Mark McArthur-Christie Bampton, Oxfordshire

Is Sebastian Payne moonlighting as a Daily Mail columnist? A scientific panel advises the EC that wine should not be granted exemption from the labelling requirement. Whether Mr Payne disagrees with the expert opinion, or the entire principle of allergen labelling, he should explain why.
Dr Julian Bradfield Edinburgh

While I sympathise with the general point that Sebastian Payne is making, I think he is being a bit unkind to people with food allergies. A proportion of 0.08% of the population sensitive to eggs may look trivial until one calculates that it equates to about 50,000 people in the UK. Wine drinkers ought to be warned, then they can choose whether to do the experiment of drinking wine.
Philip Draper Borehamwood, Herts

Sebastian's reply:

I do not aspire to write for the Daily Mail – rather, I was trying to provoke debate, and am glad to say that we have received lots of e-mails as a result from our articulate fellow members. I have seen the opinion of the scientific panel on the subject – it seems to be based on very weak and unconvincing evidence. My point was simply that for the huge majority of the population, the proposed wording is frankly misleading, as wine fined with egg white does not contain egg products, except in infinitesimal quantity. After reading such a message, people would be misled into thinking that it did.

As regards sulphur, we buy very much on smell and expect to avoid wines that have been badly handled in the cellar. Free and total sulphur levels are very much lower generally than they used to be and I think you will agree that most decent wines smell cleaner and fruitier than they did in the past. Free sulphur levels decline steadily after bottling which makes giving specific levels on a label unreliable.

Members' Comments (0)

There are no comments for this article.

By using this website, you agree that The Wine Society can place cookies on your device in accordance with our updated cookie policy

We now use a fuller range of cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service, as set out in our updated cookie policy. If you do not agree to this, you should alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or cease using the website.


4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site. In this instance we use cookies of the types described in below (which are removed at the end of your session) and in below (which are removed after 14 months). These are always served as first-party cookies, operated by The Wine Society, not a third party.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies: Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • SessionID Cookie
    This cookie is used to remember who you are as you use our site: without it, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookie:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests

This cookie expires after 14 months. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Webtrends Cookie
    This is a first-party cookie enabling Webtrends to track, anonymously, where you visit throughout the site. Using Webtrends allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic.
  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies similar to the above, but used to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. Like the Webtrends cookie, all information is recorded anonymously. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by e-mail. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.