Page last updated at 00:21 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 01:21 UK

'Ugly' fruit back on sale in EU


Return of the 'wonky' vegetables - but will people buy them?

Curly cucumbers, crooked carrots and mottled mushrooms - odd-looking fruit and vegetables are making a comeback as 20-year-old EU rules are lifted.

Marketing standards for 26 types of produce have been scrapped, in a drive to cut EU bureaucracy.

The standards will remain in place for 10 of the most popular types. But with an appropriate label shops will be able to sell "ugly" specimens of these too.

The European Commission's move has been welcomed by supermarkets.

Consumer choice

"July 1 marks the return to our shelves of the curved cucumber and the knobbly carrot," said Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

"We don't need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level. It is far better to leave it to market operators.

Carrots, picture by K Reilly

"The changes also mean that consumers will be able to choose from the widest range of products possible. It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the 'wrong' size and shape," she said. The rules were introduced to ensure common EU standards, but are regarded by critics as examples of Euro-madness.

Some 20% of produce is rejected by shops across the EU because it fails to meet the current requirements.

The 26 types are: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, water melons and witloof/chicory.

Rules designed to enforce a uniform common market aren't exactly the EU's thing any more

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell

The rules will remain unchanged for 10 types of produce, which account for 75% of EU fruit and vegetable trade: apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes.

But an apple which does not meet the standard could still be sold, as long as it were labelled "product intended for processing" or equivalent wording, the commission says.

A spokesman for the British supermarket chain Tesco said: "We welcome this move and it's not before time".

"We look forward to selling curly cucumbers and knobbly carrots while ensuring the quality of our ranges isn't compromised," said Adam Fisher.

A manager at Sainsbury's, Lucy Maclennan, voiced hope that "by being able to sell more wonky fruit and veg, we can help cash-strapped Britons save even more on their weekly shop and help farmers use more of their crop".

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