Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Bananas, euromyths and ridiculous regulations

BananasAnd so yet more silly EU regulations bite the dust, as a bunch of rules on the physical appearance of fruit and vegetables are set to go the way of the Dodo. The most famous of these, of course, being the infamous “straight banana” euromyth that has been doing the rounds of the UK tabloids for years – “Brussels bureaucrats ban bananas!” and suchlike.

With today’s announcement of the scrapping of lots of similar regulations, of course, some anti-EU types are feeling entirely justified in claiming that anyone who said the straight bananas story was a myth was a liar.

But the bananas one WAS a myth (at least, the original one about straight bananas being banned). Regulation (EC) 2257/94 – a great read, by the way – stated that they must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature of the fingers”, but failed to specify what this meant, and said nothing about straightness. It also didn’t actually ban anything. There was a fun bit about “the grade, i.e. the measurement, in millimetres, of the thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis” though…

Bendy cucumbers, however? They were a bit less keen on those – under regulation (EEC) No 1677/88 they are only allowed a bend of 10mm for every 10cm of length. So had the tabloids gone mental with BRUSSELS BANS CURVY CUCUMBERS! headlines, it would have been rather harder for EU apologists to make a comeback.

Yes, the level of detail in these regulations is silly and unnecessary – of that there can be no doubt. That’s precisely why they’re scrapping them.

Yet still we get the outrage over regulations that will soon no longer exist. How dare the EU see the error of its ways and listen to reason!

It’s just like it was a couple of years ago when another bit of deregulation was announced – despite the EU doing what the anti-EU types want, and scrapping some of its interfering rules, it gets attacked all over again. The EU just can’t win with some people…

Nonetheless – and though I entirely support scrapping silly regulations (who doesn’t?) – standardisation of product qualities is arguably as necessary to a well-functioning market as standardised weights and measures. Otherwise how can consumers in country X be sure that they are getting the same quality and value as those in country Y?

With most EU agricultural produce consumed within the EU itself, it also makes sense to try to harmonise standards EU-wide so that farmers don’t have to mess about trying to ensure that their produce meets 27 different quality standards.

Because, lest we forget, all EU member states had their own food regulations before the “Eurocrats” got involved. The EU’s ones may be too detailed and rather silly, but it’s surely better than trying to cope with umpteen different standards for umpteen different countries?

Or has the UK suddenly become self-sufficient in bananas and oranges, rendering external trade unnecessary?