Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Welcome Back, Knobby Produce!

I am definitely not a big fan of a huge government. Mainly because if a government continues to grow, the people under the government continue to be dependent upon it for their every need and direction. And while it's unlikely that I'm going to cease bitching about how there are way too many government regulations in this country for things that really should take care of themselves, I will say that it could be worse and our produce could be under the governing body of the European Union.

You see, the European Union (known across the land, far and wide, as EU) has implemented rather rigid rules that govern the appearance of produce. Yes, the appearance of fruits and vegetables. It would seem that the "misshapen" fruits and veggies were not allowed on supermarket shelves next to the "shapen"(?) fruits and veggies. The EU has rules that classify the class of the produce. Class One produce, for example, would not include things like bent cucumbers or straight bananas. Thus, all bent cucumbers and straight bananas went straight to the big ol' disposal in the sky. Or ground. (At least if it was the ground, they could compost.)

But now, with the high price of food (and the scarcity of sanity, apparently), the EU has decided that just because some vegetables look different than other vegetables, that doesn't mean that they're bad vegetables and they have just the same right to be sold and minced into some fiber-y treat goodness just like the good vegetables do. According to EU spokesman Michael Mann, "People are saying that prices are too high, so it makes no sense to be chucking food away. We want to have two classes, allowing supermarkets to sell funny shaped vegetables." Well said, old chap! Wait. What the hell?

You know what? It makes no sense to be chucking food away because it's too bent or too straight regardless as to what the freaking price of food is! Is there even a WAY to grow a straight cucumber? How does a cucumber grower go about ensuring that his vegetables are straight? What about curved bananas? How curvy is TOO curvy?

According to the good folks over there at the BBC, "Blemished, knobbly produce will no longer be banished from "class one" premium status. It is hoped the move will encourage shops to begin stocking less-than-perfect looking fruit and vegetables again. " It's like if the produce was on an airplane and the pilot invited all of the coach produce to come up and hang out with the first class produce. (Wasn't there an episode of the Muppet Show where that happened?)

But hold on there, partner! Is that the case for ALL fruits and vegetables? Of course not! See, bananas, for example, will still be under the "Class One" regime governing their degree of curvature. And the banana will be joined by 10 of the 36 other categories of produce which will be under "specific rules for the main things". (Nice of them to be so specific about the "main things" there.)

The purpose of these overly strict regulations governing shapeliness of produce items is "to make sure that what you're getting in the shops is not dirty, diseased, or rotten". And while that seems like a perfectly reasonable basis to have behind "something", when the "something" becomes un-reasonable, then you begin to not care about the reason and all you want is something simple and/or, in this case, straight or bent.

They also say that the misshapen fruit should now be sold with "some sort of a label for use in cooking" as it has apparently been so long since anyone in Europe has laid eyes on a misshapen cucumber or any other sort of defective vegetable, that they will have no idea what to do with it and, therefore, it must have a label (provided by the government) attached to inform the consumer of what to do with this novelty bestowed upon them. My God, what is wrong with the EU?

The gestapo like minimum standards will apply to: apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces and endives (don't think that the endives were getting a free ride here), peaches, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes (again, well, see "endives"). And what about the other 26 categories, you ask? Oh, it just gets better.

I found the ninety six page document entitled "Commission Regulation laying down implementing rules of Council Regulations in the fruit and vegetable sector" and, also according to the document, "whose publication is obligatory." That's because not only does no one give a fat rat's ass about this, even if they did, who in the crap is going to want to read 96 pages just for fruits and vegetables and the acceptable degrees of skew-ness within? Not many. But who is going to want to skim through 96 pages to get to the good stuff? That would be me.

For such tight-ass rules on things like how curvy a banana can be, the Commission Regulations are ironically lax in other areas. Areas such as the quality standards for things for which there is no standard. (That from the Redundant Department of Redundancy.) These are the minimum quality requirements in that category:

The product must be:
  • Intact

  • Sound

  • Clean, practically free of any visible foreign matter

  • Practically free from pests

  • Practically free from damage caused by pests

  • Free of abnormal external moisture

  • Free of any foreign smell and/or taste
Step right up and get your practically pest-free produce here! But that's just for those without a minimum requirement. If you're talking about, say, aubergines (that's European hoity-toity talk for "eggplant") the minimum requirement is: "the difference between the smallest and largest aubergines in the same package must not exceed 20mm for elongated aubergines [and] 25mm for globus aubergines". They have separated their eggplants into the elongated and globus categories. No wonder they always need our help during times of war.

And while I may mock, this reform seems to be going over well with Europeans. The former Labour EU minister, Denis MacShane thinks this is a grand idea and expressed his exuberance by stating, "At long last, we are going to get crooked cucumbers in our shops. Hooray for Europe!" At long last? Hooray for Europe? Does he know something I don't know? From the sounds of it, he might.
But finally, the BBC is very interested in this topic. So much that at the end of an article about this radical reform, they included this request:

We want to see your pictures of lumpy and misshapen fruit and veg. So if you found a straight or curvy banana or a knobbly potato send us your picture.

Send your pictures to, text them to 61124.

At no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

Yes. Always remember that when photographing....vegetables? I think that my misshapen head is about to explode.

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1 comment:

Shirah said...

You know, the Germans tried something like this in the fourties and the US tried something like that until the sixties...It didn't really quite work out for either of them last time I checked the history books.