Five bizarre European Union (EU) food rules

Are you hoping Britain will remain in the EU?

Are you hoping Britain will remain in the European Union (EU)? Or are you ready to say ‘au revoir’? Wherever your sympathies lie, there’s no denying that some of laws they’ve passed relating to food (or tried to) are slightly bizarre…

EU bananaBendy bananas? Don’t be daft!

I think everyone remembers the EU stance on bananas and cucumbers. ‘But bananas are meant to be curved, and cucumbers aren’t naturally straight!’ We cried. It fell on deaf ears. An EU statement decreed that cucumbers could be bent by a gradient of no more than 1/10 and that bananas must be ‘free of abnormal curvature.’

The result – kilo upon kilo of perfectly good fruit and vegetables that
couldnot be sold in the supermarkets as Class 1 produce. Thankfully we reformed this ridiculous rule in 2009.

I’ll have a dozen eggs please


Did you know that you can’t actually buy a dozen eggs anymore? Actually, that’s not strictly true. You can still buy 12 eggs, but thanks to the EU, they are now priced on weight rather than quantity. In grams rather than ounces, obviously – the only things permitted to be sold in imperial measures only are pints of beer /lager/cider or milk.

Interesting egg fact – it was between the World Wars that egg cartons were developed. Before this they were sold from trays and carried in paper bags. Someone discovered that eggs kept better if they were stored on their ends and ‘hey presto!’ the egg carton was born.

I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!

Well, some people might well be put off the idea, especially after the ‘Horsegate’ scandal . Others just wouldn’t do it. Of course, in some EU countries horse is eaten in the same way that Brits might eat beef. But the EU introduced a law in 2009 to say that it’s OK to eat a horse as long as it’s not your pet….. no, really. It sounds crazy, but allegedly around two million pet horses are eaten across the EU each year – presumably not by their owners.


Stilton cheese? made in Stilton? I don’t think so!

Another anomaly for you: apparently Stilton cheese, made in the village of Stilton can’t actually be called ‘Stilton Cheese.’ This is because it doesn’t have EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.

The PDO status requires that only cheese produced in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and made to a strict code can be called ‘Stilton.’ Blue cheese made at The Blue Bell Inn in Stilton for generations has to be called ‘Bell Blue’ instead.

Jam, spread or conserve?

Another EU rule, which was relaxed in 2013 concerns the sweet, tasty stuff you spread on toast, or scones, or use to sandwich a cake together. You know – jam! Before we dismissed the rule, manufacturers could only refer to their product as ‘jam’ if it contained more than 60% sugar. Anything with a sugar content of 50% – 60% had to be labelled ‘conserve.’ Anything with less than 50% was a ‘fruit spread’ in the EU’s eyes.

Mind you, in 1979, the EU passed a directive saying that carrots could be classed as fruit because the Portuguese made jam out of them (or should that be ‘conserve’?)

Of course not all EU food rules are as crazy as the above. The majority are made to inform and protect consumers. For instance, EU labelling directives relating to the important issue of allergens are covered in our Managing Food Allergens in Manufacturing course which takes place in November. We also offer labelling consultancy.

To find more, contact Claire or Karen on 01756 700802.

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