Sunday, 16 November 2008

European Rules to change

This is not a blog about the football offside rule - unfortunately. It is to advise you that next year the European Commission (EU) rules on fruit and veg will change and, for once, the change will be for the better - i.e. it will result in more sensible rules. "Marketing standards" for 26 vegetables are being repealed. Rules to be scrapped cover: Apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, watermelons, witloof chicory. Rules retained include: Apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces and endives, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes, tomatoes

In the 1980s the classic anti-EU story was that "faceless eurocrats" were banning the curved cucumber. It was all the more powerful for having a solid basis in truth. Namely, Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1677/88 of 15 June 1988. Class I cucumbers must "be reasonably well shaped and practically straight (maximum height of the arc: 10 mm per 10 cm of the length of cucumber)". Class II "slightly crooked cucumbers may have a maximum height of the arc of 20 mm per 10 cm of length of the cucumber". These are allowed to have some blemishes and discolourations. Any cucumber more crooked must be packed separately and must be otherwise cosmetically perfect.

Carrots are in the same boat. Commission Regulation (EC) No 730/1999 of 7 April 1999 says they must be "not forked, free from secondary roots". Every year tonnes of perfectly-edible produce across the EU is thrown away so that when you walk into the supermarket all you see is rank after serried rank of cosmetically perfect fruit and vegetables. Recently Sainsbury's withdrew a promotion of discount Halloween-themed vegetables, saying they had realised managers could get a criminal record for selling non-standard produce. This of course is discrimination. Fruit and vegetables have feelings too! You can't judge a carrot just because it is aesthetically challenged.

At this stage I must point out that the carrots shown above were given to us by Brian from his allotment. So far as I know neither gifts nor allotment produce are covered by the EEC Regulations so I don't think I'm putting Brian's freedom in jeopardy.

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