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The EU is a nanny state – but doesn’t care for its image

The story about the EU allegedly going after professional nannies considering them “food business operators” in the meaning of the EU foodstuff hygiene regulation is heatedly discussed in Germany, in particular around Berlin – in fora (also here), in privateĀ blogs andĀ  in politicians’ blogs.

Even the German Federal Association of Day Nannies has covered the issue in its December newsletter (PDF), calling for hygienic day care but not for useless bureaucratic regulations that are beyond what nannies can actually deliver.

Re-reading the reply I received from the EU Commission’s health division last week, I’m not convinced the story is over because the chapter cited from the EU guidelines cited only concerns “The occasional handling, preparation, storage and serving of food by private persons“. Professional day nannies actually handle food in their professional capacity, not in their private capacity – leaving room for overly correct German bureaucrats to still apply the regulation even if it was never meant for nannies.

Nevertheless, having re-read the foodstuff hygiene regulation, I still can’t see in how far nannies can become subject to detailed reporting duties as “food business operators”, because nothing in this regulation indicates professional activities that nannies do are to be covered by the regulation. Additionally, even if the reasoning in its reply is not water-proof, the EU Commission’s health division has still confirmed through its spokesperson that they do not consider nannies subject to the regulation.

However, does the EU Commission care to clarify this matter more actively? Does it care to shape its image by going into the social media where the debate is, reacting to press reports on this matter or contacting the Federal Association of Day Nannies or the German authorities?

I often get the impression that the spends way too much attention in creating an image through overprized PR material, useless websites and so-called high-level conferences that attract only the usual suspects – but when it’s image is attacked in real life they look away.

EU bodies often appear to be nanny state institutions – but when they could care for real nannies and their own image, they remain silent, preferring to invest millions in two years to repair their image instead of spending 2 days today preventing its destruction in old and in new media.

PS: This case also shows that overly general EU regulation leave too much room for national bureaucrats to do with it (almost) what they want. In return, overly precise EU regulation quickly become bureaucratic and unusable in different national contexts – making a lot of EU regulation only helpful in theory but stupid in practice.

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