Pringles are crisps/Court of Appeal-Entscheidung zu Kartoffelchips

The Court of Appeal, on 20 May 2009, held that Pringles, which are a kind of reconstituted crisp-like substance, are crisps, not cakes or biscuits. This makes them subject to VAT.

Daily Telegraph article (tweeted by matthewbennett)
Decision at Bailii

(4) Regular Pringles are manufactured by mixing the dry ingredients into dough with water and emulsifier, cutting shapes out of a dough sheet, frying it for a few seconds, adding oil and salt, cooling it and then adding flavours. A similar procedure applies to maize (in US parlance, corn) chips like tortillas. Mr Hogg considered that the unique feature of Regular Pringles was that the manufacturing process causes oil to go into the spaces throughout the texture of the product replacing the water content removed during the frying. This gives the “mouth-melt” feel when it is eaten. By contrast with potato crisps most of the fat stays on the surface.

I like ‘in US parlance’. (Also the later reference to ‘the reasonable man’ and Pringles). I’m not sure the last sentence is well constructed. It should be ‘By contrast, in potato crisps most of the fat stays on the surface’.

Food products are generally zero-rated for VAT purposes; see Schedule 8, Group 1 of the VAT Act 1994. However there are some excepted items. Item 5 reads:

“5. Any of the following when packaged for human consumption without further preparation, namely, potato crisps, potato sticks, potato puffs and similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour, or from potato starch, and savoury products obtained by the swelling of cereals or cereal products; and salted or roasted nuts other than nuts in shell.”

This case is reminiscent of earlier cases about peanuts and tomatoes, if I remember right. They are good reading for students who are interested in the language of the law courts and don’t want too complex a situation.

There was a language point, ‘made from’ (no mention of ‘made of’, which would mean about 100% to me):

“Made from”
# In the course of his urbane submissions on the “made from” aspect of Regular Pringles Mr Cordara QC referred to “the potato as a fiscal contaminant”, the “essential characteristics of the paradigm potato crisp”, the absence of “findings of potatoness” and the “quantitative role of the potato.” In contending that Pringles (42% potato, 33% fat) were not “made from” the potato he put forward this proposition:

“If a product has a number of significant ingredients it cannot be said to be ‘made from’ one of them.”

So it is argued that Regular Pringles, which also contain fat and flour, cannot be said to be “made from the potato.”

‘Urbane’ is one of those typical tongue-in-cheek references to the court’s and lawyers’ enjoyment in phrasing the case.

6 thoughts on “Pringles are crisps/Court of Appeal-Entscheidung zu Kartoffelchips

  1. My Bluebook, 17th ed., contains the following on page 17:

    *Capitalization in Court Documents and Legal Memoranda*
    Practitioners generally should follow *rule 8* on matters of capitalization, with the following modifications and additions:
    *(a) Court.* […]
    *(b) Party designations.* Capitalize party designations such as “Plaintiff,” “Defendant,” “Appellant,” “Appellee,” and so forth when referring to parties in the matter that is subject of the court document or memorandum.
    *(c) Titles of court documents.* […]

    As you mention, it is not exactly on point. Otherwise, I tend to capitalize such words in a contract, for example, only if they are defined terms, i.e., terms preceded by something like “hereinafter referred to as” or followed by something like “means.” And even then, I do find that I capitalize less now than I have in the past.

    I’m not sure if this link will work, but page 123 contains some extreme examples of capitalization in older English decisions, followed by an interesting discussion on the matter, here:[url][/url]

    Also see [url][/url]


    • Hi Derek, Thanks for the reference – I have the same edition of the BlueBook and hadn’t found it. I think (b) is on point, in fact.
      I have come round to capitalizing defined terms in contracts by reason of client expectations in Germany, I think. I don’t believe it’s essential. The main thing I have against it is that practically all the German contracts I translate are badly drafted – they define terms and then use others, sometimes a blatant case of patchworking old clauses together and mixing up the sex or description of the party! How can I seriously keep writing Company when it turns into an Enterprise? I usually do unify it, with note to client, but wonder why they should care if they can’t do it properly themselves.
      I do believe in gigantic commercial contracts it’s OK for the German to have all capitals or bold to follow the English.
      Yes, the Ken Adams link works.

      What I am wondering is why, if the new English Civil Procedure Rules require capitalization of Claimant and Defendant, that should be regarded as an authority notwithstanding all other and former opinions.

    • First of all, I should imagine that you mean capitalisation in meaning using capital letters.

      Secondly. I thought it was common legal practice only to use capital letters for defined terms. This would by definition also include Claimant/Plaintiff – Defendant.


      • What I mean is capitalizing the first letter rather than all the letters. It’s ambiguous, of course. (Or do you mean my use of ‘-ize’, which is OUP practice?)

        Yes, I take your point about Claimant being defined. I may be on a losing wicket here. One could split hairs and say there’s a difference between ‘XY…Plaintiff’ in a pleading and ‘Widgets plc (hereinafter referred to as the Company)’ in a contract (it would be better practice to refer to them as Widgets, but I find I can never do that as a DE>EN translator, because it isn’t done in German).

        As for ‘common legal practice’, my experience is that certain words are capitalized by many legal drafters even if not defined, for instance ‘This Agreement’ (see the word ‘Deed’ in my entry of March 31), and I see ‘Claimant/Plaintiff/Defendant’ in this way, as words which the writer feels are important, but where capitalizing the first letter doesn’t help the reader particularly.

  2. I don’t know what the proper usage is in UK, but words like Claimant or Defendant or Opposer (Einsprechende, always “die” in German because it refers to a Gesellschaft) are often capitalized in English translations I saw in US documents.

    I capitalize them in my translations.
    It makes sense to me because it makes the document more “uebersichtlich”, no?

    • It is perfectly correct to use them, and maybe many clients would prefer it. I can’t say it makes the document clearer if it’s just a capital on one word, personally. But I will post some photos of old documents showing that.

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