German pretzel bakers tied up in knots over EU rules

Don't worry Oktoberfest devotees, those Roquefort-munching geeks in Brussels are not trying to ban your pretzels. What's that you say? You didn't know the EU wanted to ban pretzels? Neither did the EU apparently.

At the heart of the issue are new rules on nutritional information to be placed on food products.

Bakers would be free to make no health claims for their bread. If however they specify that it is 'high in fibre' then they would also be obliged to tell consumers that it is also 'high in salt'.

The rule was adopted in 2006 but discussions are still under way -- with input from the food industry -- on how they are going to be introduced and what levels would constitute a product being deemed 'low' or 'high' in anything.

A bit of a nanny state annoyance perhaps, but the German media went a bit overboard after the Association of German bakers claimed that German pretzel culture would be "hemmed in" by the sodium labelling rules since "there is more salt in bread in Germany compared with elsewhere in the EU." 

"EU Wants to Spoil Our Pretzels!" screamed the tabloid Bild. An EU spokeswoman quickly reassured worried Germans that there was no intention of banning or regulating salty bread. 

To be fair, given the EU's infamous fatwa on bendy cucumbers, the bakers' concerns are somewhat understandable.

  JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images


Morning Brief: Obama's opening argument

Top Story

In his first address to a joint session of congress, President Barack Obama put forth a series of ambitious proposals to pull the United States out of its economic crisis. “While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this. We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”

While he offered few specifics, Obama did urge to adoption of a cap and trade plan to reduce global warming, broad health-care reform, and stricter regulation of the financial sector. The speech can probably be seen as a preview for Obama's first full budget, which will be released on Thursday.

While the address was mostly domestic in focus, Obama did reiterate his pledge to close down Guantanamo Bay and end the use of torture, and promised that a comprehensive plan for Iraq and Afghanistan would be coming soon.

Middle East

Officials say Obama may announce a 19-month schedule for withdrawing from Iraq later this week.

Iran says it has successfully carried out a test of its Bushehr nuclear power plant, which will soon be ready for activation.

After being rebuffed by Labor and Kadima, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu is turning to other right-wing parties in his attempt to form a coalition.


Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have agreed to allow the transport of NATO non-military cargo through their territory into Afghanistan.

North Korea's Kim Jong-il has reportedly been touring the site where his country is planning a missile launch.

Pakistani officials say U.S. airstrikes have worsened the terrorist threat to Pakistan.


Fighting in Somalia is the worst it's been in weeks.

After five weeks of fighting, Rwandan troops have begun pulling out of DR Congo.

The International Criminal Court will announce in March 4 whether it will prosecute Sudanse leader Omar al-Bashir.


Employees of disgraced financier Allen Stanford had roles at a regulatory group charged with preventing abuses in the financial sector.

The U.S. House of Representatives is due to vote on a bill to ease travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba for Cuban-Americans.

Gunmen killed the mayor of a town in Western Mexico as the U.N. warned that the country needed help to fight traffickers.


Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson returned to Britain after being expelled by Argentina.

Russia's economy declined by 9 percent in January.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images