Wednesday, November 12, 2008

EU admits it was wrong -- on food

Even huge fans of the European Union have often criticized the bureaucracy in Brussels for over-regulating and micromanaging. While common standards for such things as automobile safety make sense, other attempts at regulation -- such as refund rules for agricultural subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy -- would make most lawyers pull their hair out.

For once, however, the EU has caved in on at least one issue -- "oddly misshapen" fruits and vegetables sold in the trading bloc. I kid you not: Until now some food that grew the wrong way could not be sold anywhere in the 27 country bloc.

Regulations are being scrapped for -- get this -- 26 specific agrifoods: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, water melons and witloof/chicory.

They remain in place for apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes; but will now be allowed to be sold if marked with a label such as "product intended for processing."

When 20% of food has to be scrapped because it doesn't meet shape regulations (even if it is otherwise edible or healthy) while 29,000 children per day in the Third World die from hunger and preventable disease, there really is something wrong. People care about taste, not looks -- and if push comes to shove they'll eat slop as long as it keeps themselves satisfied.

As I've said before, I think the EU is probably the greatest success story in economic cooperation, open borders and the promotion of democracy values and human rights in the history of the world. But people expect their lives to remain rather simple -- you know, the KISS formula. It's little wonder why people here in North America are worried about further integration -- what unaccountable body would be setting regulations if the free trade area became a true economic union?

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