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.
(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):
# 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.