This Week In Europe

Cucumber Bending Ordinance: The day on which cucumber discrimination began

Translation from German to English: Dominik Kirchdorfer
30 Years ago the European Community adopted the so called cucumber curvation regulation. It garnered much criticism and ridicule for the EC. Was it justified?

Cucumbers must all be straight: 30 years ago, the Commission of the European Communities adopted Regulation (EEC) No 1677/88, better known as the Cucumber Bending Regulation. Until 2009, there was a rule that stipulated that cucumbers of the grade Extra may have a maximum curvature of ten millimeters to ten centimeters in length. What was behind the regulation? A useful regulation – or common vegetable racism?

Officially, the regulation was called “commercial class regulation”. 25 fruits and vegetables were divided into the three classes Extra, 1 and 2. Extra grade cucumbers had to be “well formed and practically straight”. This norm triggered heated debates. It was synonymous with a perceived regulation overzeal of the Commission – which was further inferred upon the European Community (EC).

Austria had its own cucumber curvature law since 1968.
In fact, the idea of ​​the regulation did not come from the EC. It took over a long-standing, but not legally regulated recommendation of the UN Economic Commission. In addition, by adopting this regulation, the economic community fulfilled a demand from food retailers. They wanted to have compulsory regulated categories for vegetables and fruits in order to be able to pass them on to the farmers. The cucumbers could be better compared and placed in unit boxes.

The regulation was therefore very advantageous for trade and supermarkets. Nevertheless, the regulation was ridiculed and mocked. And it provided EU skeptics with much substance to criticize the Union.

The law was also laughed at in Austria. At the time, this regulation did not affect Austria, since it was not until 1995 that the country joined the EU. But there would not have been anything to laugh about in any case. Because: In Austria, there existed a national law since 1968 that prescribed the curvature of cucumbers, the “quality class regulation”. And it was exactly the same: the maximum curvature of ten millimeters to ten centimeters in length. At that time, it was also ridiculed and derided.

Retail stores were hoping to get farmers to only sell them straight cucumbers.
Abolition was “pure symbolism”?

Today the EU regulation no longer exists. It was abolished in 2009, although most of the member states (15 out of 27) opposed the decision. This was propagated by a reduction of the bureaucracy frenzy of the EU. The German Farmers Association criticised the step sharply. They claimed that this was “pure symbolism”. In the vegetable shelves of the supermarkets, however, not much has changed since the abolition of the norm. Straight is the beauty ideal of cucumbers. Crooked ones are hard to find.

But people are still raging on about it. On the various social media platforms, the news that the law was abolished years ago, has not reached everyone yet. #Cucumberregulation is often used as an example of unnecessary, even ridiculous laws of the EU. Nobody will forget that regulation so fast. Nevertheless, the cucumber curvature regulation was by no means pure cucumber discrimination or bureaucratic overkill of the EU. It was but an instrument to be able to pack, compare and stack the vegetables better.

Original article written by Eva Schrittwieser for Die Presse, published on 15.06.2018 at 11:49. URL:

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