And a European commissioner told Mr Johnson that as a potential future prime minister he should “keep a cool head”, warning him: “A fish rots from the head down.”
The Tory leadership favourite dramatically waved a smoked herring above his head as he told Tory activists at a hustings on Wednesday that producers in the Isle of Man were “furious” at the extra costs caused by EU red tape.
He claimed Brussels was demanding that each vacuum-packed kipper sent through the post had to be accompanied by a plastic ice pillow.
And he said that leaving the EU would allow the UK to end this “damaging regulatory overkill”.
But Anca Paduraru, a European Commission food safety spokesperson, told a Brussels press conference: “The case described by Mr Johnson falls outside the scope of EU legislation and is purely a UK national competence.”
And Vytenis Andriukaitis, food safety commissioner, accused Mr Johnson of spreading “fake news”, as the Isle of Man is not even part of the EU.
Mr Andriukaitis said in a string of tweets: “Boris, the Isle of Man is not bound to the EU ‘pointless and damaging’ red tape in food safety that we are proud of because it protects consumers.
“You omitted to say that the Isle of Man is not in the EU. This packaging – UK competence. Yet another smoke. #fakenews.
“I’ll add one thing. A fish rots from the head down. As potential future PM you need to keep a cool head. So after all, Boris, that ice pillow may turn out to be not so ‘pointless’.”
Mr Johnson told the final hustings of the Tory leadership campaign that the case of the kipper was an example of why the UK was right to want to leave the EU.
“If you want to understand why it is that we must leave the EU and the advantages of coming out, I want you to consider this kipper which has been presented to me just now by the editor of a national newspaper who received it from a kipper smoker in the Isle of Man who is utterly furious because after decades of sending kippers like this through the post, he has had his costs massively increased by Brussels bureaucrats who insist that each kipper must be accompanied by this, a plastic ice pillow,” he said.
“Pointless, expensive, environmentally damaging health and safety, ladies and gentlemen. When we come out therefore, we will not only be able to end this damaging regulatory overkill, but we will also be able to do things to boost Britain’s economy and we will be able to establish an identity as a truly global Britain and get our mojo back.”
As a newspaper journalist in Brussels in the 1990s, Mr Johnson made his name with a series of stories about supposed EU regulations which were repeatedly dismissed by officials as “myths”.
Responding to questions about his new claims, Ms Paduraru said: “Our main priority is the health of our citizens as well as safeguarding the standards in terms of public health and food safety, which are the highest in the world.
“When it comes to the specific case mentioned, while the food business operator has an obligation to meet the microbiological requirements – the safety requirements – to ensure the safety of its food, however the sale of products from the food business operator to the final consumer is not covered by EU legislation on food hygiene.
“This means that the case described by Mr Johnson falls outside the scope of EU legislation and is purely a UK national competence. I hope this is clear, and the rules must be checked with the national authorities.”
Ms Paduraru said there were strict EU rules on temperature controls for fresh fish, but these did not apply to processed fish products.
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