The Danish government has caused outrage among Brits, especially those living in Denmark. Its Veterinary and Food Administration has banned the sale of Marmite, a much-loved British breakfast spread.
For the uninitiated, Marmite is a sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, powerful yeast flavour, which is extremely salty and savoury.
Every day, millions of Brits at home and abroad (me included) spread it on their breakfast toast. In countries where Marmite is not readily available British expats stock up whenever they can. I have two jars at home.
Few Filipinos can live without rice. Few Brits can live without Marmite.
The Danish authorities have ordered Marmite off the shelves under legislation forbidding the sale of food products with added vitamins and minerals.
There was a swift reaction from Marmite-lovers the world over. Several Facebook groups have been launched. Others are calling for a boycott of Danish exports likeCarlsberg Beer, Lurpak Butter and Danepak meat products.
And protests have been pouring into Danish Embassies around the world.
“We didn’t sell any Marmite to Danes, but a lot to British customers, and many of them have been asking me why we’re not stocking it any more,” said Marianne Ørum, who runs a Copenhagen store selling food from the UK.
“I have to tell them it’s illegal to sell it.”
The Danish authorities were caught off-guard by the furor and quickly issued a waffly statement saying they haven’t banned Marmite but are merely enforcing a 2004 legislation on the marketing of vitamin-enhanced foodstuffs.
“Neither Marmite nor Vegemite (its Australian equivalent) and similar products have been banned by the Danish Food and Veterinary Administration,” an official statement said.
“However, fortified foods with added vitamins, minerals or other substances cannot be marketed in Denmark unless approved by Danish food authorities.”
Says Ørum, this is tantamount to a ban.
“You can apply for permission to sell products such as Marmite, but this costs a lot of money and even then the government will probably say no.
“What am I supposed to put on my toast now?” advertising executive Colin Smith, who had lived in Denmark for six years, told a British newspaper.
“I still have a bit left in the cupboard, but it’s not going to last long.”
He and others fear they will have to subscribe to a black-market trade in the sticky brown stuff, smuggled in from nearby Sweden or Germany where it is still legal.
The ban was attacked in New Zealand where Marmite is also popular.
Said a food industry executive “What obviously started as the bright idea of a misguided Danish official has now made Denmark an international laughing stock, no doubt creating a headache for their foreign affairs diplomats.”