Referendum Boiling Point: Kettles & Toasters Next On The European Union’s “Hit List”?

What’s the first thing you do when you go into your kitchen in the morning? If you’re partial to a traditional British-style breakfast, you probably put water into your kettle for your tea and a couple of slices of bread into the toaster.

According to the Daily Express, the UK continues to enjoy “an intimate love affair with tea”. On average, they say, we each drink 3 & half cups of the beverage every day or 130,000 tonnes per annum, 96% of which is from tea bags. This also means that across the entire country, 165 million cups are consumed per day and 62 billion cups per year.

The “Daily Telegraph”, however, has produced statistics indicating that sales of kettles are in sharp decline, due to the increasing popularity of percolators, expresso, cappuccino and filter machines, which can now be found in 22% of homes in Britain. Ownership of kettles is thus now down to under 78% of the population – a trend the Telegraph attributes to efforts by householders to reduce their energy bills during the recession.

Tameside Council in Manchester have pointed out that this can be achieved simply by not overfilling your kettle. Most people, they emphasize, don’t realize how much electricity kettles use (an average of between 2 -3 kilowatts) and “how much is wasted if you only want 2 cups of tea but boil enough water for 4 or more”. An Energy Savings Trust (EST) investigation, quoted by BBC News, has indicated that 75% of British households overfill their kettles, wasting a total of £68 million per annum.

Another problem for kettle owners, asserts Lisa Galliers on the “Which?” organization’s “Home & Energy” website is that it is the “least reliable small appliance in our kitchen” so is “one product that we frequently have to replace and quite quickly after it breaks down”.

All this would seem to justify the European Union’s (EU) proposed ban on high-powered and inefficient kettles. Also included in the “29 product categories facing restrictions” (notes Laura O’Brian on “full-fact. org/europe”) are: toasters, hairdryers, swimming pool & patio heaters, hand-held power tools, sound amplifiers, gymnasium equipment, video projectors, elevators and escalators.

The declared EU objective of these measures is to “diminish carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, combat climate change and reduce energy bills for consumers”. The “Daily Express”, however, has condemned them as “a fresh threat to the British way of life” following the prohibition on vacuum cleaners with motors over 1,600 watts which came into effect on September 1st 2014 – a reaction dismissed by the “British Influence” organization as a “hysterical misrepresentation of perfectly sensible attempts to conserve energy”.

Despite the EU’s apparent determination to push ahead with what its critics describe as “an eco-friendly assault on British kettles & toasters”, this will not now happen until after the Referendum on 23rd June. An EU official told the Financial Times that this decision had been taken out of “respect for the British obsession with water kettles”. The newspaper concluded – as did most of the UK media – that the EU is in a panic that it’s “clumsy intervention” could send “Brexit” passions boiling over” and so result in a victory for the “Leave” campaign.

In the opinion of the Scottish Conservative politician, Brian Monteith, “the only thing that should be toast is our EU membership”. The UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) spokeswoman, Louise Bours, similarly believes that “people should be able to choose whatever toaster and hairdryer they like. It’s the EU we need to take power from”.

On 28th February, The Guardian reported the “mistaken claim” by David Coburn, a UKIP MEP (Member of European Parliament) that existing EU regulations had already weakened his toaster and that he now hardly ever gets his toast the way he wants it: He prefers it to be “cremated, not looking like it’s been cooked in the Antarctic on an ice float”.

Meanwhile, the “Consumer Affairs” website has emphasized that toasters – even though they might be more reliable than kettles – are also far more dangerous in the kitchen: “If the electric elements that generate the heat don’t turn off when they are supposed to, they can burn the bread and cause a fire”. This is even more likely to happen if crumbs have been allowed to accumulate. They advise that toasters should be unplugged when not in use and that if they do catch fire, “Don’t use water to try to put it out. Use a kitchen fire extinguisher or smother the blaze with a heavy towel or blanket”.

One problem has always been not being able to see what’s happening inside your toaster until it’s too late. As the Daily Telegraph has revealed, the Magimix Company has resolved this with its “Vision Toaster”. This has double insulated clear glass which give “hungry users a panoramic view” of their bread, buns and muffins as they are cooked to perfection and so they can be “taken out before they become too crispy”.

Filed under: Politics, Society | Posted on March 12th, 2016 by Colin D Gordon

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