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Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 16:07 UK

EU prepares U-turn on wonky fruit

Supermarket peppers (file pic)
Fruit and vegetables have to comply with detailed EU rules

The European Commission says it wants to loosen the rules that prevent knobbly fruit and vegetables being sold alongside more shapely examples.

But the Commission says its efforts to simplify EU legislation have been resisted by some countries.

The complicated marketing rules have spawned long-running debates about straight bananas and cucumbers.

The Commission says misshapen fruit should be sold "with some sort of label for use in cooking".

"In an era of high prices and growing demand, this makes more sense than just throwing them away," said a statement from the office of Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

Resistance

A year ago, the Commission pledged to simplify the marketing system for fruit and vegetables by removing unnecessary standards - part of the drive to cut red tape.

The Commission proposed keeping the existing standards for just 10 categories of fruit and vegetables, scrapping the standards for 26 others.

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What consumers think of the possible rule change

"The Commissioner is determined that this should go ahead and is surprised by such strong resistance to such a practical example of simplification," said the statement sent to the BBC News website on Monday.

Among the 26 foods designated to be removed from the Commission's standards list are: aubergines, beans, carrots, courgettes, cucumbers, leeks, melons, onions, plums and spinach.

The standards would remain for: apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces and endives, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes.

Commission regulations for fruit and vegetables are extremely detailed, specifying their desired appearance, weight, size and other features.

For example, Regulation No 1292/81, laying down quality standards for leeks, aubergines and courgettes, states that for Class One leeks "the white part of the leek must represent at least one-third of the total length or half the sheathed part".

For aubergines, "the difference between the smallest and largest aubergines in the same package must not exceed 20mm for elongated aubergines [and] 25mm for globus aubergines".


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