Belgian politicians have been outraged by what they see as an assault on their culture, after the European Commission proposed that chips should be blanched before frying them.
Frite – or friten in the Flemish-speaking north of the country – are fried raw in Belgium and adored for being crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Ben Weyts, Belgium’s minister for tourism, claimed EU officials were plotting to destroy the country’s “rich gastronomical traditions” and accused the Commission of being out of touch with its member states.
“Our fries owe their flavour to the craftsmanship of our chippies,who fry chips raw and then fry them a second time,” he said.
“I understand that outside our country they have different cultures. But we have our own cultural tradition. It would be a shame if the European Union prohibited it.”
The European Commission has furiously denied this, saying its advice on blanching was merely a “recommendation” in a draft document which is yet to have been approved by member states.
Blanching was recommended in the draft as part of new food safety measures that would prevent the formation of acrylamide, a carcinogenic compound, in fried snacks.
A copy of the draft documents published on the Commission’s website says that chips must be fried at a temperature below 175C but only be blanched “where possible.”
“The Commission has no intention whatsoever, I repeat, no intention whatsoever, to ban Belgian fries, or any other type of fries,” said Margaritis Schinas, a European Commission spokesman.
“We are all very attached to the rich culinary heritage we find in our member states,” he said, adding “le frite c’est chique.”
Anca Paduraru, also an EU Commission spokesman, said Belgium – incidentally the seat of the bloc’s headquarters – was playing “a political game.”
“We do not oblige anyone to blanche potatoes,” she said, “they can do with the potatoes what they want if the temperature is lower than 175C.”
The Commission’s plans are still at a consultation stage, which means Belgium and other EU member states will have the chance to vote against them if they wish.