July 1, 2009

Banned Produce Returning To EU Supermarkets

Strangely shaped fruits and vegetables, such as bendy cucumbers and knobbly carrots, will be allowed back into European supermarkets on July 1.

On Tuesday, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel stated that the regulations on the shape of produce were an example of "unnecessary red tape."

"We don't need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level. It is far better to leave it to market operators. July 1 marks the return to our shelves of the curved cucumber and the knobbly carrot," the commissioner told the AFP.

"It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the 'wrong' size and shape," she added.

Last November, 27 EU nations approved a repeal of the regulations, although the decision was not unanimous.

For the past 20 years, European regulations had made sure that only standard-looking produce make it to market.

In all, standards for 26 fruits and vegetables are being eliminated.

The rules have been ridiculed by many, including major British supermarket chain Sainsbury's, who called the regulations "bonkers."

Others, including France, have argued in favor of the rules, saying the removal of the restrictions will lead to a decrease in prices, thus impacting farmers.

The decision will eliminate 100 pages of EU legislation.

Rules are being eliminated for apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocados, 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 chicory.

Ten other fruits and vegetables, including apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes, will continue to have regulations.

Rules for these 10 types of produce are being held in place as part of a compromise with member states that were opposed to the repeal, although the fruits and vegetables may still be sold if labeled appropriately.

"In practical terms, this means that an apple which does not meet the standard may still be sold in the shop, as long as it is labeled 'product intended for processing' or equivalent wording," said the EU commission.

Bananas, because they are grown outside of the EU, remain under different legislation.