Currently, strange shaped veggies ... carrots that look like human sex organs, potatoes that look like Mr. Potato head wearing glasses, and of course, rutabagas in the shape of the Virgin Mother Mary cannot be legally sold in Western Europe. That regulation is about to be lifted.
Currently, for instance,
Class I cucumbers must "be reasonably well shaped and practically straight (maximum height of the arc: 10 mm per 10 cm of the length of cucumber)". Class II "slightly crooked cucumbers may have a maximum height of the arc of 20 mm per 10 cm of length of the cucumber".
As a result of this sort of regulaion, tons (or, actually tonnes, because it is in Europe) of produce is chucked every year in Europe. While there are starving people in Africa.
The new regulations address this wastefulness, as well as an increased interest in heritage produce. But, I feel that there was also a secret concern that by tossing out odd looking carrots, turnips and tomatoes, thousands of holy images are being discarded. This is not a religious concern for the Europeans, but rather, an effort to increase the productivity of the European portion of the eBay market.
I'm not at all sure about this. As I understand it, those regulations only define quality control standards as to what is or isn't class I, class II, etc... They don't actually ban the sale of produce that fails to make the grade, they just mean that you can't label it as class I. While it's entirely true that tonnes of perfectly edible produce is thrown away, I'm not convinced that it's because of this. Back when I worked in vegetable quality control, the stuff that didn't make class I or II simply went for processing (into soup and ready-meals), rather than direct retail sale. For example, in the referenced regulation for apples (Commission Regulation (EC) No 85/2004 [PDF]), we have the following definition:
"This standard applies to apples of varieties (cultivars) grown from Malus domestica Borkh., to be supplied fresh to the consumer, apples for industrial processing being excluded."
The BBC article claims that tonnes are thrown away but it also says that a lot goes to processing. But even so, we know that the God Veggies that go to processing are not as well scrutinized as the material that is laid out for display in the supermarket.
Makes me think of Blackadder
Percy...."we found a turnip in exactly the same shape of a thingy"...
somewhere on another clip (can't find it right now) is the riposte..." funny things is, his thingy was in the shape of a turnip..."
A lot of produce does get chucked out, or used for "lesser" purposes but most of that is because the supermarkets only like to sell "perfect" fruit and veg. Pakaging also comes into it: it's much easier to package things if they're all nice and uniform.
Some of the EU regulations on fruit and veg - and other things - are a bit daft but their significance is usually overstated by the media, particularly in the UK.
Greg - The thing you have to remember is that there's a long-standing journalistic tradition in Britain of writing total bollocks about EC regulations.
The standards that everyone's spent the last 20 years getting so worked up about were actually identical to the pre-existing British standards anyway.
I'd add that even if the 'class' rules are to be changed, this will likely not have an impact on what reaches supermarket shelves (except maybe in the cheapest shops, I guess). If consumers don't like funny-shaped vegetables, supermarkets won't buy them. EOS.
I worked once on a farm that sold strawberries - among other things - to M&S. M&S had their own rules on what stawberries they would accept; the rest - anything small, for example, and anything that didn't look like a picture under S-Is-For-Strawberry - was picked and left to rot in the field. Not because of any spurious EU reg but because of M&S customer demand.