Under the new rules which became effective on 1 July, 26 types of fruit and vegetables will no longer have specific marketing standards relating to classification, size, shape, development, variety and labeling details. Produce such as cabbage, onions, cherries, avocados and zucchini can now be sold without restriction.
But specific marketing standards will apply to the 10 most popular fruit and vegetables, including apples, citrus fruit and tomatoes. These will have to be labeled as non-standard.
"In practical terms, this means that an apple which does not meet the standard may still be sold in the shop, as long as it is labeled 'product intended for processing' or equivalent wording," according to an EU commission statement.
Unnecessary red tape
EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel admitted that the rules banning the over-the-counter sale of misshaped fruit and vegetables were long-standing examples of "unnecessary red tape" emanating from Brussels.
The EU should not regulate the shape of fresh produce; it is better left to market operators, said the commissioner.
The decision would reduce waste and allow farmers to sell more of their crop and widen the choice available for consumers, added Boel. Previously such produce has been sold to food processors which pulp them into sauces and soups.
UK food and farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick welcomed the EU’s decision: “The new marketing regulations will help supermarkets and greengrocers label their fruit and vegetables correctly, and will provide more choice for people who aren’t bothered by what shape their five a day comes in.
“It also means that producers and suppliers won’t be stuck with as many leftovers, so there’ll be less food waste.”
The UK National Farmers Union (NFU) said in a statement: “It is good to hear that people will be given the chance to buy odd-shaped fruit and veg and see they taste just as good. It will help eliminate waste, which has to be good news for consumers and British growers.”
UK supermarket Sainsbury's called for the restrictions to be lifted last year after it was prevented from selling a range of twisted vegetables for Halloween.
EU member states approved the move last November.
The rules for bananas, which are grown mainly outside the EU, remain unchanged because different legislation applies to them.