“Wonky” vegetables to be permitted in EU

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 13th November 2008

Curvy Cucumber

Rules governing the size and shape of fruit and vegetables will be consigned to history after European Union Member States yesterday voted on Commission proposals to repeal specific marketing standards for 26 types of fruit and vegetables.

The Commission claims the initiative is a major element in its ongoing efforts to streamline and simplify EU rules and cut red tape. For 10 types of fruit and vegetables, including apples, strawberries and tomatoes, marketing standards will remain in place. But even for these 10, Member States could for the first time allow shops to sell products that don’t respect the standards, as long as they are labelled to distinguish them from ‘extra’, ‘class I’ and ‘class II’ fruit. In other words, the new rules will allow national authorities to permit the sale of all fruit and vegetables, regardless of their size and shape.

“This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. “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. And in these days of high food prices and general economic difficulties, consumers should be able to choose from the widest range of products possible. It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the ‘wrong’ shape.”

UK retailer Sainsbury’s last week launched its own ‘Save our Ugly Fruit and Veg’ campaign and launched an online poll for customers to join forces in the fight for ‘wonky’ fruit and veg. Sainsbury’s believes that wonky fruit and vegetables can be up to 40% cheaper than the standard vegetables they sell and they were hoping to offer such produce as part of a ‘Halloween’ range.

The Commission’s vote means that standards will be repealed for 26 products: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers,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 proposals would maintain specific marketing standards for 10 products which account for 75 per cent of the value of EU trade: apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes. However, Member States could also exempt these from the standards if they were sold in the shops with an appropriate label. In practical terms, this means that an apple which does not meet the standard could still be sold in the shop, as long as it were labelled “product intended for processing” or equivalent wording.

The the changes will be implemented from 1 July 2009.