Have you ever heard of Marmite? I have never. Apparently (some?) British people are very fond of it.On 24 May 2011 the “Denmark bans Marmite” story broke. I think it started with a small store in Copenhagen, “Abigail’s“, selling British products. They were banned from selling Marmite as they did not have an approval. They started a ‘Bring Back Marmite’ campaign. The story was reported on redherring.dk British expat website by Jason Heppenstall. From there it must have gone further to The Telegraph and Guardian. And from there it went viral in newspaper comment sections and on Twitter. Denmark in general quickly got bad comments from angry Brits. Brits suggested banning Denmark, Danish Blue, Bacon, Lego, Carlsberg, IKEA [sic], Danish pastries, Hans Christian Andersen, extraditing Sandi Toksvig. The next day the Danish Embassy issued an urgent press release trying to catch up on the viral story. They stated that Marmite was not banned but just needed an approval as Marmite was a fortified food. Noone had sought an approval. You can get an approval for 6’100 DKK according to the Danish food regularities. The Embassy press release didn’t stop CNN from reporting on the story and they furthermore cited Marianne Ørum, the store owner of Abigail’s: “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.” Denmark has traditionally had a “tough stance on functional foods”, see a 2004 article. It has hit products from Kellogg. The Guardian reported on that story back in 2004. The First Post went on to actually ask a scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation about the Marmite “ban” citing her for “There would certainly be no rationale for a ban in the UK as seen in Denmark.” Can we compare Kellogg and Marmite? When Kellogg was banned in 2004 there was no strong social media. Now we got 306 Facebook ‘shares’ and 15 tweets on a far away New Zealand newspaper web site reporting on the Marmite story. Brits seem to be much more emotionally attached to Marmite than Kellogg Special K.
Update 2011-05-25 17:00 CEST: I should note that Kellogg now sells Special K in Denmark. If you look on their ingredients you’ll see no iron, so it might be a variant. It seems not to be correct what is stated on Wikipedia at the moment regarding Special K and Denmark (Special K is not outlawed). To get Marmite into Denmark the company behind Marmite could stop adding the extra ingredients or the Danish import company could pay the 6’100 DKK and hope for an approval. I guess bringing the product to Denmark is no problem, – it is only an issue if you sell functional food in Denmark.
I first heard of the Marmite story through Ben Goldacre. I am interesting in hearing what he has to say about functional food.