“We’ll fight them on the peaches, says Co-op” (The Daily Telegraph, 2 July 2001, page 8)
The Co-op will risk prosecution today by selling peaches below the minimum size allowed by the European Union. The retailer…aims to expose the “absurdity” of EU red tape that prevents more organic fruit being made available.
“Euro row as peaches fail to measure up” (Daily Express, 2 July 2001, page 24)
A new Euro-row is set to break out today over the size of peaches being sold in British stores. From 1 July until the end of October it is illegal to sell peaches less than 56 mm in diameter.
The diameter of the fruit is a way of measuring its maturity/development. Fruit grown organically or conventionally have to reach a certain degree of maturity in order to have a reasonable chance of satisfying the consumer. The minimum diameters laid down by standards are usually fixed at a level at which most fruit are of a satisfactory quality for consumption. This minimum stage of development does not depend on the method of production, but more on cultivation techniques diminishing the number of fruits on the tree to allow a better development of the remaining ones. That is why there is no specific requirement for organic produce. The contrary would mean organic farmers being allowed to sell smaller produce.
Inspections and penalties for non-compliance of legislation are the responsibility of the Member State. In the UK, the Horticulture Marketing Inspectorate is in charge of inspections. Produce inspected that does not conform to legislation is either regraded (if possible) or withdrawn from sale.
It should not be forgotten that all these norms have been demanded and requested for years by the industry and by the retailers. The Commission will continue to monitor this area for potential problems, but has no evidence that current EU standards are affecting the marketing of organic produce.