International media coverage was generated by a news story claimed that gingerbread men had been banned in the Scottish Parliament.
Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it to be Mostly False.
The food was a staple in medieval Europe, and by 1598 was popular enough to be mentioned in a Shakespeare play, Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Country bumpkin Costard extols the virtues of the sweet biscuit, saying “An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy ginger-bread”.
In recent years, gingerbread men have been an unlikely focus of controversy in media, as examples of gingerbread men being relabelled as ‘gingerbread persons’ or ‘people’ have been cited as evidence of the worst excesses of political correctness.
The controversy surrounding the Scottish Parliament’s gingerbread people is not new.
The first spike in Google searches for the term was Christmas 2010, after a number of articles about gingerbread men being replaced with more inclusive terms.
One was a widely-shared article by the Daily Mail in 2010 headlined “Gingerbread ‘person’, the PC pudding: Now even biscuits can’t escape the politically correct brigade”.
The article referred to a Lancashire County Council school meal menu referring to ‘gingerbread persons’.
As far back as 2006, a bakery in Kidderminster was criticised for making the change. According to an article in the local Express and Star newspaper, the decision was reversed by bakery owners Greggs. A spokesman for the firm said: “We don’t know why this has happened but we will be speaking to the manager to make sure the name is reverted to gingerbread man.”
So, did the Scottish Parliament ban gingerbread men from its cafe? It appears not.
The story was first reported by the Scottish Sun on 14 December. The article begins: “Parly [Scottish Parliament] catering staff are banned from saying gingerbread “man” amid an anti-sexism crusade.
“Holyrood workers labelled the treats “person” over fears the traditional name could offend.” The article includes a picture of the gingerbread biscuits and their label.
The story was picked up by a number of newspapers including the Daily Express, iNews, and the Daily Mail as well as by international media, featuring on Fox News, Daily Wire, and on Late Night with Seth Myers and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
While the biscuits were advertised as ‘gingerbread persons’ rather than the traditional gingerbread men, it appears this was a decision by Scottish Parliament caterers Sodexo.
In response to an evidence request from Ferret Fact Service, the Scottish Parliament said “last week our caterers Sodexo, who run the Scottish Parliament’s staff restaurant, made and sold gingerbread biscuits. The biscuits had a hand-made label that said ‘Gingerbread person – £1.45’”.
The decision to brand the gingerbread persons neutrally was taken by the catering company and the Scottish Parliament was not consulted beforehand.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly False
The article in the Scottish Sun claiming that the Scottish Parliament had banned staff from saying ‘gingerbread men’ in the Holyrood cafe is not accurate. While biscuits labelled ‘gingerbread people’ were sold at the Scottish Parliament, this was a decision made by external caterers not Parliament bosses. There is no policy banning the use of the term nor gingerbread biscuits being described as ‘gingerbread men’.
Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our community forum.