Yes, we have no (straight) bananas!

Has the European Commission being telling porkies about Euro-myths? The small percentage of LibDem Voice readers who avidly devour the Daily Mail and saw the recent piece by Edward Heathcoat-Amory dramatically headlined ‘Here’s proof Brussels has been sprouting lies about wonky vegetables for years!’ are not the only people who may think so. And truth to tell, what should have been a good news story from the EU has turned into something of a public relations disaster.

First the facts. Earlier this month, the EU relaxed its regulations governing 26 types of fruit and veg, lifting a ban on the sale of bizarre, deformed or otherwise non-standard produce. This will release onto the market substantial quantities of food which would otherwise have been dumped and this should help push food prices down.

The Danish (Liberal) European Commissioner for Agriculture, Mariann Fischer Boel, enthused, ‘This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot!’ So that’s alright then. Or maybe not. Because for some time, the European Commission office in London has been listing among its Euro-myths the notion that Brussels dictates the size of peaches and the curvature of cucumbers.

As the Daily Mail simmered, ‘shouldn’t we all feel a tiny bit angry that, having been told for years that all these stories about Eurocrats dictating the size and shape vegetables and fruit were simply Eurosceptic propaganda, we are now expected to give Brussels credit for bravely abolishing them? […] Will they now be eating their words?’

For once, the Daily Mail has a point, though Heathcoat-Amory can’t resist over-egging the pudding by then ranting on about Brussels ‘fruit fascists’. It was stupid, if not downright dishonest, for those who should have known better to deny that there were such regulations. I am sure that I will be not be the only LibDem Euro-candidate who will have this thrown in my face (if not the fruit and veg themselves) by UKIP and the Conservatives over the coming months. It is essential that briefings from the European Commission or European Movement are 100% accurate.

However, Sharon Bowles, LibDem MEP for South East England, has an interesting insight into the affair. She discovered that it was the British government which first imposed these rules about wonky fruit and veg, long before the EU got involved, to assist food-buyers in finalising contracts for bulk purchase. But now supermarkets including Sainsbury’s have argued successfully that scrapping the regulations would be desirable as customers would appreciate cheaper, imperfect produce.

More articles by Jonathan Fryer.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.
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3 Comments

  • David Evans 1st Dec '08 - 11:52am

    The key point is in the comment “It is essential that briefings from the European Commission or European Movement are 100% accurate.”

    As Liberals we are all instinctively aware that people and organisations with a vested interest (both right and left wing) will try to mislead us and the public. We want to believe that those who agree with us won’t do such things, but we know they are human and they will; possibly because they want to make their case more strongly, or possibly because they have been misled themselves. The European Movement and the European Commission are as susceptible to this as the Mail, or the Guardian, or any government body.

    As Liberals we believe “no-one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity” and so we must stand against these things to ensure as far as we can that these values are reflected in our institutions, especially those we support most strongly.

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