It’s one of the best known scare stories – that the EU legislates on the amount of curvature of cucumbers. Only José Manuel Barroso has hit back – the Commission wants to do away with the standards, but the Member States are resisting:

“You all heard the story of straight cucumbers […] For ages Europe has been ridiculed over the marketing standards for cucumbers […] Well, my Commission has proposed to get rid of it, together with 35 other marketing standards for fruit and vegetables. But guess what: when we sounded out the member states, a clear majority was against.”

See the story from Reuters, via European Union Law Blog and DJ Nozem. So the next time some smug tabloid journalist has a whine about straight cucumbers you can tell them where to stick it.

4 Comments

  1. “but isn’t all of this a matter for the contract between the supplier and the purchaser”

    Quite. The minor metals market, for example, operates very nicely thank you on the basis of a two page contract agreed by the Minor Metals Traders’ Association. Suppliers and producers agree to use it, except when they don’t. The definitions of what is Mo, Ga, Ge, In etc are all quite happily agreed amongst the market participants. I’ve bought stuff out of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, quite happily on such contracts, sold into the US, Japan etc.

    And no, we don’t have the EU (or any other legal authority) insisting that the sale bars of excessive curvature is a criminal offence punishable by a £5,000 fine and or six months in jail.

    The EU’s defence on the cucumbers is that supermarkets asked for there to be EU standards. Which leads to the conclusion that one reason for the existence of said EU is so that it can be a criminal offence to piss off a supermarket.

    That’s a very strong case for the ceding of national sovereignty, don’t you think?

  2. I don’t think end users of cucumbers care too much how curvy they are. Supermarkets might, but isn’t all of this a matter for the contract between the supplier and the purchaser, rather than Government on any geographic scale?

    The Government should be there to step in if someone lies about the quality, shape, quantity, edibility, or non-poisonous nature of their cucumber, not to tell farmers and supermarkets what they should be buying and selling.

  3. Sorry, the myth is that bendy cucumbers are banned. They are not. There are standards for different grades of cucumber, and degree of curvature is one of the criteria…

    For what it’s worth, I reckon it’s handy for consumers to have vegetables and other things that are graded by quality, although I am no specialist to know whether the curvature of a cucumber makes it taste better or worse. Then as there’s a lot of Europe-wide trade in cucumbers (lots produced in Spain) it makes sense to set these rules at EU level, because otherwise you create non-tariff barriers in the cucumber trade if each EU state has a different cucumber categorization system.

  4. The thing is, this doesn’t prove much

    1) If you’re a Eurosceptic of my type you don’t really care if it’s the Commission or the other member states causing the problem. The issue is British Votes on British Vegetables (or, y’know, whatever).

    2) It’s good that this is in the news, as so many Europhiles up to and including Commissioners have denied these rules exist, and even elements in the FCO have encouraged the press to run stories about them being “Euromyths”. Now here the rules are, for all to see, whoevers fault they are.

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