Global Economics

Europe Welcomes Back Imperfect Produce


Curvy cucumbers and knobbly carrots will reappear in shops after the EU repealed strict shape standards that became a symbol of bureaucratic meddling

Legislation restricting the sale of imperfectly shaped fruit and vegetables was assigned to the compost heap of history on Wednesday (1 July) as repeals to controversial marketing standards that became synonymous with Brussels heavy-handedness came into effect.

"This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot," said agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel in anticipation of the move.

"It's a concrete example of our drive to cut unnecessary red tape. We simply don't need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level. It is far better to leave it to market operators."

The new dawn for avant-garde avocados and knobbly sprouts comes after EU member states agreed last November on commission proposals to scrap strict shape requirements that restricted the sale of cucumbers which curved more than 1cm for every 10cm of length.

The rules will no longer apply to 26 agricultural products but will remain in place for ten others. Wonky variations of these ten can also be sold however, provided they are labelled to distinguish them from their more perfect 'extra', 'class I' and 'class II' cousins.

The fully de-shackled 26 are: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, water melons, and witloof/chicory.

The ten types that will require special labelling before they can be sold in their more twisted formats currently account for 75 percent of the value of EU trade in fruit and vegetables.

They are: apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes.

Prices to fall

The news has been well greeted by shops and consumers groups alike, who now hope the extra produce will enable sellers to lower their prices.

Up until Wednesday's repeal, roughly 20 percent of all fruit and vegetables had to be rejected by sellers on the grounds it did not meet EU requirements.

British supermarket Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) is among those who have lobbied the commission strenuously in recent years to scrap the marketing standards.

"By being able to sell more wonky fruit and veg, we can help cash-strapped Britons save even more on their weekly shop and help farmers use more of their crop," said one of the store's managers, Lucy Maclennan, reports the Daily Mail.

A number of shops have said they intend to sell the newly allowed wonky fruit at significantly lower prices.

Provided by EUobserver—For the latest EU related news

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