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.

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