THERE can be few rules and regulations that brought more scorn and derision on the European Union’s bureaucrats over the years than those which governed the shape and size of certain fruit and vegetables offered for sale by retailers.

Anybody who ever wanted to have a go at the EU only had to reach for the guide to “Specific Marketing Standards for Fresh Horticultural Produce” to find plenty of ammunition.

Stories about the EU insisting on straight bananas and banning curved cucumbers, for instance, provided much fuel for letter-writers and dinner table conversations. And they were made all the worse by the fact some had a basis in truth.

Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1677/88 of June 1988, for example, stated that “Class I cucumbers must be reasonably well shaped and practically straight (maximum height of the arc: 10 mm per 10 cm of the length of cucumber)” and that “Class II slightly crooked cucumbers may have a maximum height of the arc of 20 mm per 10 cm of length.”

There were similar rules and regulations for dozens of other items of fruit and veg, including brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, courgettes, hazelnuts, peas, apricots and spinach.

Whether or not the apocryphal tales that went with them had a direct effect on the EU referendum is a matter for debate but European bureaucracy was certainly an oft-quoted factor in media interviews.

What was, perhaps, less well known at the time was that many of the more restrictive rules – including those covering the above-listed items along with about 20 others – had actually been scrapped in 2008.

In fact, the Specific Marketing Standards now only apply to 10 types of fresh produce: apples, table grapes, kiwi fruit, citrus fruit (oranges, lemons and soft citrus), peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, lettuces and endives, sweet peppers and tomatoes.

To be fit for sale, these types of produce must be “intact, sound (for example, not rotten, severely bruised or severely damaged), clean, fresh in appearance, practically free from pests, practically free from damage caused by pests affecting the flesh, free of abnormal external moisture, free of foreign smell or taste, sufficiently developed/ripe, but not overdeveloped/overripe.” They must all be graded by quality and fulfil proper labelling rules.

All of which is eminently sensible and not something it would be fair to attack the EU over. But given that it’s now ten years since the regulations were dropped on those other items, has it really made much difference?

Whatever we think about the bureaucratic nature of the regulations, there were very few people who demanded they should be changed. Why? Because, I suspect, most people like their food to look pristine and perfectly formed. And if they didn’t when we joined the Common Market, they certainly do now.

After years of buying perfect-looking food, are we willing to accept anything that is less aesthetically pleasing? Well, there may at last be signs our food snobbery is starting to break down.

Bradford-based supermarket chain Morrisons was one of the first to launch a campaign against food waste by selling “wonky” versions of some of those deregulated items, including wonky apples and pomegranates introduced last November. Last week, they announced they were adding wonky chillies to their range at a cost of 39 per cent less than standard chillies.

Those of us in the know will tell you that wonky fruit and veg tastes just as good as the perfectly-formed variety and the real shame is that, a decade after the rules changes, our supermarket shelves are not stuffed with “misshapen” food produce.

Given the current economic climate, rising levels of poverty and stagnant wage increases, it would be good to think that knobbly carrots and ugly potatoes, and their subsequently reduced prices, could soon become the norm.

It would help if all those TV chefs would start using them; The Hairy Bikers’ Deformed Dinners or James Martin’s Ghastly Grills anyone?

And if the same taste, texture and nutritional value aren’t good enough, you can always eat blindfold.

Recalling pub chat is not really an exact science...

A BIZARRE piece of research, on behalf of an online casino, this week claims the best pub conversations take place at precisely 7.52pm on a Friday night after 3.3 alcoholic drinks.

It’s a long time since I was a Friday-night pub-goer but, as far as I remember, most of the conversations at that time always seemed to be about what a lousy/great week someone had had at work. As the top conversation topic was “old memories”, I must say I seem to recall it took a few more drinks than that to get interesting….

Driving with unrestrained pets is criminally stupid behaviour

MANY years ago, my wife and I, travelling with our three-week-old baby when we pulled up our car at a T-junction, only to be rear-ended by a small Estate.

The woman driver, who said it was her first solo outing for 17 years, had four unrestrained children in the back, two dogs jumping in and out of the boot and another on the front seat. Which, I guess, makes me among the one-in-ten motorists who have been in an accident while a pet was in the car or know someone who has, according to research by

Luckily, no-one was hurt but, judging by the number I see who still do it, far more should be made of the fact that driving with an unrestrained pet (not to mention a child) is illegal and carries a fine of up to £2,500 (Hashtag: wake-up-idiots!)