Page last updated at 07:25 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 08:25 UK

Grocer's anger at small kiwi rule

Tim Down
Mr Down said the reasons for rejecting his fruit were nonsensical

A fruit and veg wholesaler faces throwing away an entire consignment of Chilean kiwis because inspectors said they were too small.

Tim Down, from Bristol, said he could not even give away the 520 fruit, each of which is about the size of a small hen's egg and weighs about 60g.

"I was given 24 hours to think about it and my outrage grew," he said.

A spokesman for the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) said the consignment failed to meet EU grading rules.

Mr Down said in addition to the waste, there had been a financial and environmental cost of importing the fruit.

'Perfectly good'

"They are perfectly fit to eat. These regulations come at a time when rising food prices are highlighted and we're being forced to throw away perfectly good food.

"There is nothing wrong with its palatability, it's purely because it is slightly less than the prescribed minimum size."

He said he was not even permitted by law to give away the 31 10-kilo boxes of kiwis to a school or hostel and faced a fine of several thousand pounds if he did.

The inspector's decision is consistent with RPA's commitment to protect consumers
Barry Stedman, Rural Payments Agency

Barry Stedman, head of the RPA, said the consignment had failed to meet the minimum standards for saleable produce, in contravention of EU grading rules.

"The inspector's decision is consistent with RPA's commitment to protect consumers, who must feel confident that the produce they are buying is of the right quality," he said.

"RPA's role is to work with traders to provide advice and assistance to ensure that this happens and to help traders carry out their business within the law."

Mr Down has been given a number of options, including sending the fruit back to the importer, or having them processed into juice.

The European Commission said earlier this month that it wanted to relax the regulations which prevented misshapen or underweight fruit and vegetables being sold.

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

"The inspectors visit us on a random basis, probably two to three times monthly and select items at random that they wish to inspect," said Mr Down.

"The inspection took place subsequent to the announcement by the EC that the regulations are being modified.

"We have had many items rejected over the years, but this is, for a variety of reasons, is one of the most nonsensical - the straw that broke the camel's back."

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