Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 16:11 UK

Pringles 'are not potato crisps'

Potato only makes up 42% of the ingredients of Pringles

Pringles, the popular snack food in a tube, are not potato crisps, a High Court judge has ruled.

Their packaging, "unnatural shape" and the fact that the potato content is less than 50% helped Mr Justice Warren make his crunch decision.

As a result, Pringles, in all flavours are free from Value Added Tax (VAT).

Manufacturer Procter & Gamble (P&G) is likely to save millions of pounds as a result of the decision - with customers also likely to pay less.

Spud impact

P&G had gone to court to challenge a VAT and Duties Tribunal decision that the Pringle was subject to the standard 17.5% rate of VAT because it was "a potato crisp product", which are, unlike most food, subject to the tax.

But the manufacturer had insisted that their best-selling product was not similar to potato crisps, because of their "mouth melt" taste, "uniform colour" and "regular shape" which "is not found in nature".

It also argued that potato crisps - unlike Pringles - did not contain non-potato flours, and were not packaged in tubes.

Pringles are more like a cake or a biscuit, it claimed, because they are manufactured from dough.

Mr Justice Warren ruled that Pringles were not "made from the potato" - as set out in the definition laid down by the 1994 VAT Act.

To be subject to VAT, a product "must be wholly, or substantially wholly, made from the potato".

But he said that Pringles did not meet these criteria - being made from potato flour, corn flour, wheat starch and rice flour together with fat and emulsifier, salt and seasoning, with a potato content of about 42%.

Taking the biscuit

Separately, the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation have decided - after seven years of debate - what qualifies as a proper tomato.

The ruling means tomatoes may be round, ribbed, oblong or elongated, or can be cherry tomatoes or cocktail tomatoes. Other characteristics include being clean, whole, fresh in appearance, and free from foreign smells and pests.

Earlier this year the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the UK Treasury had wrongly imposed VAT on a Marks and Spencer teacake. Customers paid VAT for 20 years before the authorities accepted the product was a cake, which does not command VAT.

Under UK tax rules, most traditional bakery products such as bread, cakes, flapjacks and Jaffa Cakes are free of VAT, but the tax is payable on cereal bars, shortbread and partly-coated or wholly-coated biscuits.

Teacake set to cost taxman 3.5m
10 Apr 08 |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific