Thursday, June 24, 2004

Nuts!

For some unfathomable reason, a large number of Americans are enraptured by a sweet and salty concoction of ground peanuts known as peanut butter – a material used over here mainly as a bait for dosing with paracetamol tablets in order to despatch badgers.

Nevertheless, in a spirit of solidarity and free enterprise, in 1993 Steve Rappaport started up a company in Prague called LinkAmerika to import US-made peanut butter to soothe the homesickness pangs of expat Americans.

But now that the Czech Republic has joined the European Union, all this must stop. US-produced peanuts are now verboten as they do not comply with "strict European Union regulations". Furthermore, while they could once be imported duty-free, they are now taxed at approximately 12 percent upon entry into the EU.

This is something which is not only upsetting the expats but also the US government, not least as it was the Regan-era US government, and its expenditure of billions of tax dollars, that bought the Czech Republic – and the other former Communist satellites – their freedom to import peanut butter in the first place.

In the eyes of US authorities, many of the EU's regulations on American food exports are unnecessarily burdensome and not based on good scientific data. There are no signs, for instance that any of the many millions of US citizens back in their own country are suffering any ill-effect from their home-produced peanut butter, which tends to support the contention of their government that the EU restrictions are simply a disguised trade barrier.

This, so far, has cut little ice with the EU Commission, which is adamant that the people of the EU must be protected against these vile US imports, leaving the Czechs with no option but to import a Dutch-made substitute produced by Unilever. To which General Anthony McAuliffe's remark all those years ago might have been quite appropriate: "Nuts!".

We are obliged to S. Adam Cardais of The Prague Post for the basis of this story.

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