No New Wonky Fruit Ban In Brussels

25 March 2010
Alyn Smith MEP has today (Thursday) hailed a vote in the European Parliament in Brussels which maintains the current position on fruit and vegetable marketing standards.

Some MEPs called for the reintroduction of previous restrictions on shapes and sizes of fruit and vegetables, so-called "uniform standardisation parameters" i.e. the banning of odd-shaped fruits and vegetables. These controversial and unpopular rules were only dismantled by the European Commission last year.

In addition to this, also welcome was the successful passage of an amendment on mandatory country of origin labelling, which strengthens the previously weak line that had been taken on this in the Parliament's Agriculture Committee.

Less welcome was the successful passage of the proposal to establish an EU-wide quality logo and the defeat of an amendment which supported private certification schemes such as the Red Tractor.

Commenting after the vote, Smith said:

"Finally we can put the nonsensical wonky fruit ban to bed. This issue should never have come back to life after the Commission removed the restrictions last year and I sincerely hope we won't see another resurrection any time soon.

"Now that we have removed the risk of the imposition of these centralised and bureaucratic "standardisation parameters" I think it is high time that we turn our attention to the private standards set by supermarkets which are now, and to some extent always have been, the real problem for our producers. The extra costs and restrictions that such standards place on the food supply chain need to be addressed before we are faced with a serious food supply crisis.

"Another ongoing issue for us was mandatory country of origin labelling and I am delighted to see this amendment supported by the whole Parliament. This new legislation means that consumers benefit from full and clear information on all meat and dairy products, providing greater traceability and transparency when they are shopping.

"Unfortunately we were defeated on our opposition to the EU kite mark, a scheme which I think is nebulous at best and costly and bureaucratic at worst.

"However, all in all I am delighted that we put the case together and that Parliament backed us. A good result for our suppliers and consumers."

Mr Smith's speech to Parliament is copied below:

Madam President, I would echo many of the comments of my Scottish colleague - albeit not Group colleague - George Lyon. There is much in this report to admire and a couple of things where I think we could do a little better. We have brought forward a number of points and I will focus on two of them only.

I and others believe that our consumers want to know where their food comes from. We believe that the provision of that information should be compulsory, so Amendment 4, on precisely that point, replaces some rather weak wording with a much stronger requirement that, where we can actually have information on ‘place of farming' labelling, it should be compulsory, because that is what our consumers want to see.

I would also pick up on Amendment 3 - as my colleague did - which deletes the attempt to reintroduce cumbersome and unworkable rules on the direct sale of fruit and vegetables to the consumer. We agreed only last year to repeal those rules and, while the consumers have not noticed much of a difference, our producers have noticed and still notice. Any attempt to bring those rules back would essentially be another stick for the processors, the multiples and the supermarkets to beat the producers with, and the consumers would not benefit directly.

So there is much in this report to like. I would echo Mr Lyon's comments on the EU logo. I think that is more to do with the ambitions of this building rather than what our consumers want. If it does not resonate with the consumers we should not do it and we should replace it with a compulsory origin labelling scheme, which is what our consumers want.

The amendments are constructive; I hope they will be successful and that colleagues will support them tomorrow.