Putting the banana story straight

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

'THANKS a bunch,' muttered a gloomy EU Commission official. He was contemplating with intended pun the front page of The the Sun, which carried the headlines 'Now they've really gone bananas' and 'Euro bosses ban too bendy ones'.

Here, complete with the Sun's cut-out-and-keep Euro-banana and the Banana Hotline, was the birth, full-grown, of a tabloid 'Euromyth'. Has the EU really banned curved bananas? Yes, but only those so deformed that nobody would buy them anyway.

Last week, an obscure committee of fruit and vegetable experts from EU governments laid down (following requests from fruit importers) minimum standards for bananas grown in countries supported by EU aid programmes.

The fruit experts stated that unripened green bananas must be: 'Intact, firm, sound (ie not rotting), clean, free from pests or pest-damage, with the stalk intact, without bending, fungal damage or dessication, with pistils removed, free from malformation or abnormal curvature, free of bruises or any damage inflicted by speed-chilling, not damp, nor strange-smelling.'

They also stipulated that, as of 1 January 1995, the minimum dimensions for a banana imported into the EU should be 5.5 inches long and an inch wide.

The story is a lesson in the genesis of Euromyths. It originated in the German press which is highly banana-sensitive because Germans eat four times as many bananas as other EU citizens and was immediately imported by the British press.

But why bother regulating bananas in the first place? A European Commission spokesman said the rules were intended to help banana shippers (who often order by phone) to get value for their money: 'We want to ensure that we are not paying out for rubbish and we don't want Euro-subsidies acting as an incentive to produce poor bananas.'

Putting the banana story straight

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