Should the UK follow Denmark and ban Marmite?

Marmite ban Denmark

Denmark has a reputation for knowing best when it comes to food regulation

News LAST UPDATED AT 13:10 ON Wed 25 May 2011

Yesterday, Danish authorities finally chose their side in one of the longest-running culinary disputes: they effectively announced that they hate Marmite.

Denmark is picking on the divisive spread for being 'rich in B vitamins', something Marmite actually boasts about on its jars. Too rich, say the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, who decided to take action to prevent Danes exceeding recommended levels of the nutrients in their diet.

They also took issue with the levels of folic acid, widely consumed in order to guard against spinal problems in babies.

This is not the first time that the Danes have expressed their displeasure with brands which fortify their products. In 2004, they banned 18 Kellogg's products, including Special K and Rice Krispies, for being enriched with iron, calcium and vitamins.

But while most Brits are scoffing at the Marmite ban, Denmark does have a reputation for knowing best when it comes to food regulation. They were the first country in the world to legislate on trans-fats in food back in 2003, imposing a two per cent limit on the presence of unsaturated fats that have long been associated with heart disease, obesity and other health risks. Numerous countries have since followed suit.

So should the British authorities copy Denmark now and ban Marmite?

"It's possible to overdose on vitamin supplements," Bridget Benelam, a scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, told The First Post. "But the B vitamins present in Marmite, B6 and B12, are water soluble, so if you have too much, your body just flushes them out."

"It would be very hard, especially with a food like Marmite, to eat too much."

Marmite has actually been banned in Britain before. In 2008, the local council in Ceredigion, Wales, forbade the product in schools over fears that its salt content was too high.

But Benelam disagrees with this thinking, pointing to the fact that it is usually eaten in very small amounts. She believes fortified foods are a useful means to guard against nutrient deficiency in the population.

"There would certainly be no rationale for a ban in the UK as seen in Denmark.

"Without fortified cereals and products we would actually be concerned about people in this country not getting enough of certain nutrients, such as iron, riboflavin and B vitamins." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.