BRUSSELS, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Bent cucumbers and other ugly fruit and vegetables will soon return to European Union (EU) markets as EU nations agreed on Wednesday to scrap controversial marketing standards.
"This marks the new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobby carrot," said EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.
Based on a proposal by the European Commission, EU member states voted Wednesday to repeal specific marketing standards for 26 types of fruit and vegetables, including asparagus, cucumbers, carrots, cherries, melons and onions.
The standards, introduced more than 20 years ago, have been derided by critics as proof of EU's madness to regulate everything, under which a Class 1 green asparagus must be green for 80 per cent of its length, Class 1 cucumbers should not be bent by a curve of more than ten millimeters per ten centimeters, and a string of onions must have 16 onions to qualify.
Forked carrots, onions that are less than two thirds covered with skin and the over bent cucumbers have been excluded from supermarket shelves.
Now the rules governing the size and shape of fruit and vegetables will be consigned to history.
Although for ten types of fruit and vegetables, including apples, strawberries and tomatoes, marketing standards will remain in place, EU member states could for the first time allow shops to sell products that do not respect the standards, as long as they are appropriately labeled.
In other words, the new rules will allow national authorities to permit the sale of all fruit and vegetables, regardless of their size and shape. For example, an apple which does not meet the standard could still be sold in the shop, as long as it was labeled "product intended for processing" or equivalent wording.
Boel said the repeal of the excessive standards was a concrete example of the EU's drive to cut unnecessary red tape and may help save money for consumers and reduce waste when food prices are relatively high.
"We simply do not need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level," Boel said. "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."
The move was largely welcomed by farmers, growers and supermarkets, but consumers should wait for more than half a year to buy "ugly" fruit and vegetables.
The commission said it will now formally adopt the changes which, for practical reasons, will be implemented on July 1, 2009.
"Food is food, no matter what it looks like. These crazy rules have to go immediately," said Neil Parish, chairman of the European Parliament's agriculture committee.
"To stop stores selling perfectly decent food during a food crisis is morally unjustifiable. Consumers care about the taste and quality of food, not how it looks," he added.