Amid opposition from farmers’ organisations, the EU executive has decided to abolish marketing standards on fruits and vegetables, allowing consumers to buy curvy cucumbers and other ‘wrong’ fruits and vegetables as of 1 July 2009.
“We simply don’t need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level,” acknowledged EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, adding that in the context of skyrocketing food prices and general economic difficulties, it made “no sense” to throw away perfectly good products due to their shape.
Specific EU marketing standards are repealed for 26 types of fruit and vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, garlic and cherries, as part of the EU executive’s effort to cut “unnecessary” red tape.
Standards are still kept for ten varieties, including apples, oranges, lettuces, strawberries and tomatoes, which represent some 75% of the value of EU fruit and vegetable trade. But weird, ‘wonky’ forms of these varieties will now also be allowed to be sold as long as they are labelled to distinguish them from ‘extra’, ‘class I’ and ‘class II’ fruits.
Abolishing of the EU rule will thus allow national authorities to permit the sale of fruits and vegetables regardless of their size and shape.
While consumers may find it refreshing to buy a curvy cucumber or a knobbly carrot, Copa-Cogeca, which represents European farmers and agri-cooperatives, fears that dismantling EU marketing standards will lead to the establishment of national standards and cause “private standards to proliferate,” hampering the smooth functioning of the single market and hindering simplification.
“The use of objective parameters such as size and uniformity helps put a clear and unequivocal price on each quality, at both the producer and consumer level. As such, EU marketing standards have helped to fairly and transparently balance out trade,” argued Secretary General Pekka Pesonen.