Change of heart by Brussels on crooked carrots


IRISH CONSUMERS can look forward to the return of the crooked carrot, misshapen mushrooms and small onions in our shops because of a change of heart by the European Commission.

For years EU regulations on the sale of fruit and vegetables has banned misshapen and small fruit and vegetables from the shelves - which has led to perfectly good food being dumped.

Now, because of rising food prices and growing demand for food, the commission has asked member states to repeal the specific marketing standards for 26 types of fruit and vegetables.

The preliminary vote on the issue last month indicated that when a formal vote is taken later in the year, the regulations will be scrapped when the commission is empowered to do so.

The commission will retain marketing standards for apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes.

However, it has agreed that member states can exempt even these from marketing standards if they are sold in the shops with appropriate labels stating "products intended for processing".

"Such products could be either misshapen or undersized and could for example be used by consumers for cooking or salads, etc. In this era of high prices and growing demand, it makes no sense to throw these products away or destroy them," said the commission statement.

"This is a concrete example of our drive to cut red tape and I will continue to push until it goes through," said Mariann Fischer Boel, commissioner for agriculture and rural development.

"It should not be the EU's job to regulate these things. It is far better to leave it to market operators. It will also cut down on unnecessary waste and benefit consumers," she said.

The products to be deregulated are apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocados, 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.

The changes, which will effectively set new general minimum standards for marketing of fruit and vegetables, are likely to come in from July 1st next year.

Last year the commissioner announced major reforms of the fruit and vegetable industry with the aim of improving the competitiveness and market orientation of the fruit and vegetable sector. Ms Fischer Boel said these would reduce income fluctuations resulting from crises, promote consumption, thereby contributing to better public health, and enhance environmental safeguards.