Euro Nationalist fanatics, long personified in Hampshire by Chris Huhne, the long-time but now thankfully departed Lib Dem Eastleigh MP, have repeatedly made statements along the lines that the ‘EU doesn’t make laws forbidding the sale of bent bananas’. Here is a BBC report of Chris Huhne saying it. A statement that is true in itself but hides the real accusation (which is not that you couldn’t sell bent bananas) just that the EU is insane enough to produce regulations on fruit ‘quality’ based an item of fruit’s shape. The fact is that from 1998 until 2009 (when this section was eventually repealed) the EU imposed restrictions on how much fruit like bananas and cucumbers could bend if you wanted to sell the fruit as ‘Class 1’ or ‘Extra’.
The regulation on Cucumbers stated that they must be:
‘be well shaped and practically straight (maximum height of the arc: 10 mm per 10 cm of length of the cucumber) ‘ .
In fact the EU still imposes this pointlessly stupid level of regulation on selling fruit. The current regulation is number 1221/2008. This still defines all sorts of trivial standards about how fruit must be classified. For example, take the following small section from the part dealing with apples:
For Class I Apples …
The following slight defects, however, may be allowed provided these do not affect the general appearance of the produce, the quality, the keeping quality and presentation in the package:
– a slight defect in shape,
– a slight defect in development,
– a slight defect in colouring,
– slight skin defects which must not extend over more than:
- 2 cm in length for defects of elongated shape,
- 1 cm2 of total surface area for other defects, with the exception of scab (Venturia inaequalis), which must not extend over more than 0,25 cm2 of total surface area,
- slight bruising not exceeding 1 cm2 of total surface area and not discoloured.
The stalk may be missing, provided the break is clean and the adjacent skin is not damaged.
So even now defining the shape of ‘Class 1’ fruit is still important to the EU.
In addition there are requirements for the colour of the apples, with an exhaustive list of the types of apples that exist. For example to class a ‘Red Variety’ apple as ‘class 1’ then 50% of its surface must be red. To class a ‘Mixed red colouring variety’ of apple as a ‘class 1’ apple 33% of its surface must be red, and it goes on and on over three quality classes and four red colour types and 287 individually named apple varieties. I haven’t even included the ‘russeting criteria’ to this and anyhow just reading this regulation I began to lose the will to live! Imagine if you were a supermarket quality supervisor trying to apply this legislation.
If you stand back and look at this one regulation (about 70 pages/27,000 words) purely about marketing standards for fruit and vegetables, you can easily see why the EU costs us so much and is so damaging to jobs and trade. Surely this whole regulation could just be replaced with one sentence ‘Fruit and vegetables must be correctly labelled’? The rest (i.e. will anyone buy it) is up to market forces.
This type of EU legislation should provide a good ‘litmus test’ against which any proposed or actual trade relationship with the EU (or anyone else for that matter) is measured. If it contains anything like this then we want nothing to do with it. Mr Cameron please note!.