Wacky fruit and vegetables made a dramatic return to supermarket shelves throughout Europe for the first time in more than 20 years Wednesday, after the European Union scrapped rules governing the size and shape of produce.
Until now, cucumbers could not be legally sold unless they were “practically straight” and bananas were not allowed to have abnormal curvature, according to the regulations.
But curvy carrots, over-sized melons and other strange fruit and vegetables will be back on the menu as the EU strives to cut red tape and reduce waste during the tough economic conditions.
“This is a concrete example of our drive to cut unnecessary red tape. We don't need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level,” Boel Mariann Fischer Boel, commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said in a press statement.
“It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the 'wrong' size and shape,” she said.
Farmers had been forced to trash up to a fifth of their produce for breaking the EU standards. Now, 100 pages of EU legislation will be thrown out instead.
“The main beneficiaries will be the farmers who have been forced into a significant amount if wastage … It makes them more money if they can ship all of their produce,” Brian Roberts, research director at Planetretail, told CNBC.com.
The move could also be good for supermarkets as it might boost their environmentally-friendly credentials by minimizing wastage, Roberts said.
The marketing standards have been canned for: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, Brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, zuchini (know as courgettes in the UK), 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.
Standards will be kept in place for 10 products, including apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes.
But abnormal shapes of these will be allowed to be sold if clearly labeled to indicate their uniqueness.
“We wanted to get rid of the whole lot in fact. You wouldn’t believe it, but we did have a lot of resistance from a lot of our countries … We had to find a compromise,” Michael Mann from the European Commission told CNBC.
“I think people can change their habits, perhaps they have got used to it, but now they’re going to have to get used to new, funny-shaped vegetables,” Mann added.
By Robin Knight, Assistant Producer and Jo Webster, Special to CNBC.com
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