DEFRA Marketing Standard: Crazy Talk

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Strawberries: now born into a class-war

WARNING: mini rant

So DEFRA are implementing updated marketing standards for everyone involved in selling fresh fruit & veg; including Farm Shops such as Hartley. They have said that 10 certain crops (apples, grapes, kiwis, citrus, peaches & nectarines, pears starwberries, lettuce, sweet peppers & tomatoes) must have a quality class written on the label, as well as country of origin. Why these 10 and no other? Why these 10 at all?

The clases are Excellent, Class 1, Class 2. Class 1 will probably be the most common class when it comes to fruit & veg: good quality produce, some little deviation in size, ie not all completely uniform. You’d think that when it comes to fruit & veg, a) this judgement is subjective depending on who is looking at the produce; and b) you wouldn’t need to be told that something is good quality and roughly uniform – you can look at the apples/lettuce/whatever themselves.

Having to write the Class on the labels in the shop means much less room for other info, such as variety and price. Plus just putting ‘Hartley Farm’ as the origin of the product isn’t enough apparently; we have to put ‘UK’ on there too. Because obviously it won’t be clear to customers where in the world they are when they are on the farm, and they could think they are in Spain.

Weirdly variety info is not mandatory on the label; so DEFRA would have us label lettuces grown here on the farm as “Lettuce; Class 1; UK produce”. Which is of course MUCH more use to the customer than “Little Gem Lettuce; Hartley Farm; £1.99”; and if the lettuce was a bit dodgy looking, customer will OF COURSE need some other person to write “Class 2” on the label, rather than looking at the lettuce before picking it up. Because no one actually looks at the produce they’re buying, do they? They only ever look at the label; and then if it turns out that the lettuce doesn’t fit what they would describe as a Class 1 lettuce, they will sue the vendor for false description.

I am also not sure how produce such as caulifowers, bananas, cucumbers, aubergines, chilli peppers, mushrooms… have escaped these labelling measures. Anyone would think that the standards are completely arbitrary and pointless when it comes to retail labels.



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