Curvy cucumbers, curious carrots return to EU supermarket shelves


Xinhua (China)
June 30, 2009

BRUSSELS, June 30 (Xinhua) — Curvy cucumbers, forky carrots, bendy beans and other strange-shaped vegetables and fruits are returning to supermarket shelves in European Union (EU) countries, as new rules allowing sale of wonky fruit and vegetables will come into force on Wednesday.

"July 1 marks the return to our shelves of the curved cucumber and the knobby carrot," said Mariann Fischer Boel, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

The new rules, adopted by the European Commission last December, repealed specific marketing standards for 26 types of fruits and vegetables, meaning the end of EU rules governing the size and shape of these products, which include cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, melons, mushrooms and garlic.

The weird standards, introduced more than 20 years ago, have been derided by critics as a proof of EU’s madness to regulate everything, under which a Class 1 green asparagus must be green for 80 percent of its length, Class 1 cucumbers should not be bent by a curve of more than ten millimeters per ten centimeters, and a string of onions must have 16 onions to qualify.

Forked carrots, onions that are less than two thirds covered with skin and the over bent cucumbers are excluded from supermarket shelves.

Now the rules governing the size and shape of fruits and vegetables will be consigned to history.

Although for ten types of fruits and vegetables, including apples, strawberries and tomatoes, marketing standards will remain in place, EU member states could for the first time allow shops to sell those products that do not respect the standards, as long as they are appropriately labeled.

In other words, the new rules will allow national authorities to permit the sale of all fruits and vegetables, regardless of their size and shape. For example, an apple which does not meet the standard could still be sold in the shop, as long as it was labeled "product intended for processing" or equivalent wording.

The commission said the repeal of the excessive standards forms part of its ongoing efforts to streamline and simplify EU rules and cut red tape, and it will cut waste and allow consumers a wider choice of products.

"This is a concrete example of our drive to cut unnecessary red tape. We do not need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level. It is far better to leave it to market operators," Boel said.

"The changes also mean that consumers will 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’ size and shape," she added.

Editor: Wang Guanqun

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