“Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree…”

by Katie Pizzuto on July 9, 2009

in Agribusiness,Food politics

IMG_2633-72-400Somewhere in Brussels, there used to be a guy in a lab coat whose job it was to measure and determine what the “appropriate” curvature of a cucumber should be if it was going to be sold and eaten in the EU. I’m not sure exactly how that holds up in casual ice-breaking conversation, but I’m sure, in the end, he did his mum proud. In case you were wondering, Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1677/88 stated that Class I and Extra Class cucumbers were allowed a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length, and Class II cucumbers were allowed twice as much bend. Screw the fact that a weird misshapen cucumber might taste great, up until recently the EU was more concerned with how a fruit or vegetable looked. As of July 1st, these ridiculous “ugly duckling” regulations have thankfully been fed to the lions, but guys, what the hell were you smoking?

Here I was thinking that Americans were obsessed with the way their food looked, but man was I underestimating the rest of this populated universe. Take, for instance, the tomato. Because so many consumers in the US are obsessed with a perfectly rounded, beautiful, unbruised red tomato, growers ship out green, unripe tomatoes and spray them with ethylene gas so they give the appearance of a gorgeous vine-ripened tomato. They taste terrible, but apparently taste is secondary—it’s FOOD for Christ’s sake! Same goes with oranges that are injected with a synthetic orange dye to make them look more appealing in grocery store departments. But all that is the fault of idiot consumers—not government—who are so concerned with aesthetics that they’re willing to sacrifice taste. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. The EU, however, is another matter.

Up until recently, retailers tiptoed around a 100-page document that provided legislation on the shape, size and texture of fruit and vegetables. Curvy cucumbers? Chuck ‘em. Knobby carrots? Dump ‘em. Bumpy watermelons? Forget ‘em. These guys would’ve gone into convulsions had they ever set eyes on an heirloom tomato! Tons of fruits and veggies got tossed simply because they were the wrong shape. Sure the legislation is now dying, but don’t start the fanfare yet, ‘cuz tomatoes, lettuces, lemons, limes and apples will still be covered by the regulations. Why? Because “the continued segregation of deformed citrus fruits was a compromise reached…in order to avoid a qualified majority of votes against deregulation.” What the fuck? I want to know which members of the European Commission were sitting there with their arms folded, shaking their heads, saying, “We’ll give you cucumbers, but you have to let us keep the clause about segregating deformed citrus.” And what’s the politically correct term for deformed citrus, anyway, aesthetically challenged? Gimme a break.

Tim Down, a fruit and veggie wholesaler from Bristol, UK, flipped out last month when he was forced to throw away 520 Chilean kiwis after being told by the Rural Payments Agency that they did not meet industry standards. The problem? Some of the kiwis weighed up to four grams less than the stipulated 62g. For those that don’t do metrics, 4 grams is just over a tenth of an ounce. Didn’t matter whether or not the kiwis were delicious. I guess, in the immortal words of Fernando, “It’s better to look good than to…err…taste good.”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Juan M. Garay July 9, 2009

Well, let me say that this ‘sounds’ like government getting in too much in our eating habits.
But i also think that we are spoiled consumers, don’t we want to eat oranges, tomatoes, avocados and others the same way they look in TV comerciales and in the movies?
I have never seen a TV comercial in which a ‘twisted 3 headed cucumber’s sliced.

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2 Katie Pizzuto July 9, 2009

EXACTLY my point! As I mentioned, US consumers are always on the hunt for the false sense of perfection in a beautifully colored fruit or vegetable, but what’s INSIDE that pretty package is usually of inferior quality in taste. Yet you don’t see them clamoring for better-tasting fruit, just nice-looking fruit.

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3 Linsey July 9, 2009

you dont know how many ppl in the uk agree with u – bananas were rejected for being too bent

perfect looking fruit and veg has led to tasteless crap

give me a wonky strawberry with flavour any day

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4 Katie Pizzuto July 9, 2009

Funny you mention bananas, Lin, as they are one of the fruits that did NOT free themselves of legislation, so count on them still only being “curved just so” 🙂

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5 Linsey July 9, 2009

oh for heavens sake – they arnt included ???? bananas are the most infamous of the lot …

the anal retention of the EU is massive – what a damn waste of money to dump tons of food based on pure looks and size – it all comes out the same way at the other end of ur body – which kind of sums up the rules

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6 The Wine Commonsewer July 10, 2009

Had some snarky, semi-pithy remark on the tip of my tongue but it has fled……

Might have had something to do with the 400 some regs that apply to a burger.

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7 Katie July 10, 2009

Oh, come now, Mike…I look forward to your snarky comments! I guess that’s what senility will do to a man 😉

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8 The Wine Commonsewer July 14, 2009

….speaking of fresh food, just sauteed our first Japanese eggplant of the summer last night. MMMMM. Didn’t take a pic so no blog post, but it was yummy.

I guess that’s what senility will do to a man

Please, we prefer the term ‘senior moment’. Wait. No we don’t, that sounds much more like something that happens requiring the use of Depends. Let’s stick with senility. Gracias.

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9 Katie July 14, 2009

I LOOOOOOOVE Japanese eggplant. Wonder how that would do in a Jersey garden? Does it have different needs than Italian eggplant?

And no, ‘senior mement’ does NOT sound better.

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10 The Wine Commonsewer July 16, 2009

Re: Japanese eggplant. It must be happy in our hot dry summers because it is readily available in six packs.

Japanese eggplant has similar needs to tomatoes. It should be picked young to avoid bitterness. Can’t see why it wouldn’t be happy in NJ. Likes good soil and does not like any drought stress. That is true of most veggies though. I have my garden on drip and it gets watered twice a day.

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11 Anthony July 25, 2009

That is so fing rediculous whoever came up with that theory. Good stuff

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