Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Curvy cucumbers could come back to EU shelves

  • Only 10 standards are to remain, according to the commission's proposal (Photo: Fabrizio Federici)

No single rule has probably contributed so much to the reputation of the EU as an over-regulatory bureaucracy as that on sales of curved cucumbers.

But the much-mocked regulation could soon be gone, with funny shaped vegetables and fruits return to super market shelves throughout the union.

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A proposal from agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel to repeal the rules on curved cucumbers together with regulations of 25 other fruits and vegetables may pass, when experts from the EU member states meet in Brussels next Wednesday (12 November).

Only 10 standards are to remain, according to the commission's suggestion - including those for apples, citrus fruit, peaches, pears and tomatoes - accounting for three-quarters of EU cross-border fruit and vegetable trade.

"I can't stand it any longer to be confronted with the curved cucumbers. I want to end this debate, that the EU is regulating everything into the details," Ms Fischer Boel explained to Danish daily Politiken.

"My immediate reaction was to get rid of it all. But I have met stiff opposition in the member states. Mainly due to massive lobby from the retail and whole sales business, aiming to keep the standards," she explained.

Countries like Italy, Spain, France and Hungary still want to keep regulations on the trade. It's easier to buy and sell standard products, but supermarket giant Sainsbury and Friends of the Earth among others have campaigned for relaxed rules on sale of 'imperfect' fruit and veg.

In a recent letter to the commissioner the retailer suggested such a move could reduce prices by up to 40 percent and cut down on the one-fifth of produce wasted.

"We have been struggling to fit a square peg in a round hole for too long now," Sue Henderson, of Sainsbury's told the BBC.

"We're not allowed to use up to 20% of what's produced in this country and in the current credit crunch climate, we cannot continue to waste this much food before it even leaves the farms."

EU member states voted on the new rules already in July, but there was not a qualified majority in favour of keeping the rules nor of scrapping them.

When ministers are blocked over approval of a particular proposal, the decision passes over to the commission, which makes it possible for Mariann Fischer Boel to pass her proposal with effect from July 2009.

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