EU officials are seeking to end the rules that determine the length, girth and shape of various fruit and vegetables that can be graded “first class” for sale in shops.

There are currently 36 marketing regulations covering an array of products, and the EU Commission wants to cut this down to just 10.

Among those to go would be the infamous cucumber quality standard, which ensures that cucumbers cannot bend more than 10mm for every 10cm of length.

Minimum standards

Another rule destined for the waste bin is the one that says that “the white part of a leek must represent at least one third of the total length, or half the sheaved part”.

But the commission is planning to retain minimum standards for fruits such as apples, pears and kiwis, and vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuces and peppers.

The rule changes stem from the 2007 reform of the fruit and vegetable regime and are aimed at cutting red tape.

Unjustified ban

But the commission has already run into trouble in the agriculture council, with 18 of the 27 member states understood to be opposed to any loosening up of the rules.

“Finally the EU Commission comes up with a sensible idea aimed at getting rid of frankly silly rules and behold the usual suspects line up to block it,” said chairman of the European parliament agriculture committee, Neil Parish.

“Quite why the French, Spanish, Germans and Italians want to continue the unjustified ban on bendy cucumbers is beyond me.

“The new rules will still ensure that all fruit and veg is clean and healthy whilst allowing people to enjoy the diversity that normal production brings.”

The EU Commission says it wants to relax some of the rules to help increase food supply at a time of rising prices. “In an era of high prices and growing demand, this makes more sense than just throwing them away,” said a statement.