Europe relaxes rules on sale of ugly fruits and vegetables
Funny fruit now legal in European markets
Misshapen fruit and vegetables won a reprieve on Wednesday from the European Union as it scrapped rules banning overly curved, extra knobbly or oddly shaped produce from supermarket shelves.
Ending regulations on the size and shape of 26 types of fruit and vegetables, the European authorities killed off restrictions that had become synonymous with bureaucratic meddling.
The rising cost of commodities also persuaded the European Commission that there was no point in throwing away food just because it looked strange.
As of July, when the changes go into force, these standards for the 26 products, as varied as peas and plums, will disappear. European shoppers will then be able to choose their produce whatever its appearance.
For 10 other types of fruit and vegetables, including apples, citrus, peaches, pears, strawberries and tomatoes, shape standards will remain. But items that do not meet European norms will still be allowed onto the market provided they are marked as being substandard or intended for cooking or processing.
“This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, European commissioner for agriculture, who argued that regulations were better left to market operators.
“It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the ‘wrong’ shape,” Ms. Fischer Boel said.
That sentiment was not shared by 16 of the union’s 27 nations, which tried to block the changes at a meeting of the Agricultural Management Committee. Several worried that the abolition of European standards would lead to the creation of national ones, said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the discussions.
The European Union is well known for its detailed regulations on agricultural items. Commission Regulation (EC) 2257/94, for example, states that bananas sold in Europe must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature,” though Class 1 bananas can have “slight defects of shape,” and Class 2 bananas can have full “defects of shape.” Bananas were not covered in the ruling, so for now, these standards remain.