Brussels, 12 November 2008
"This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot," said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "It's a concrete example of our drive to cut unnecessary red tape. We simply don't need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level. It is far better to leave it to market operators. And in these days of high food prices and general economic difficulties, consumers should 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' shape."
During last year's negotiations on the reform of the Common Market Organisation for fruit and vegetables, the Commission committed itself to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy by getting rid of a number of marketing standards for fruit and vegetables. Today's vote means that these standards will be repealed for 26 products: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers,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.
The proposals would maintain specific marketing standards for 10 products which account for 75 percent of the value of EU trade: apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes. However, Member States could also exempt these from the standards if they were sold in the shops with an appropriate label. In practical terms, this means that an apple which does not meet the standard could still be sold in the shop, as long as it were labelled "product intended for processing" or equivalent wording.
The Commission will now formally adopt the changes which, for practical reasons, will be implemented from 1 July 2009.