Tom Goodenough

Boris hits back in Brussels banana row. But has he got his facts right this time?

Boris hits back in Brussels banana row. But has he got his facts right this time?
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Boris has hit back in the row over whether Brussels tells Brits what types of bananas we can eat. Last week, he was accused of 'making it up as he went along' after claiming that the European Union prevented the fruit from being sold in bunches of more than 'two or three'. But instead of being quiet about them today, Boris has used his Brexit battlebus stop in York to insist that Brussels does meddle with our bananas. As Isabel Hardman reports, the former Mayor decided to take on those who had ridiculed him about his claims regarding EU control over bananas. He said he had looked into it and there were actually ‘four directives on bananas, including a directive on the curvature of bananas.’

So, is he telling the truth? He did well not to repeat his claim about bunches of more than three bananas not being available in shops. As any person who has visited a supermarket recently will tell you, that's nonsense. But Boris is right to say that the EU does have something to say on bananas. In fact, in the form of the boringly-named EU Commission regulation 2257/94, it has more than 1,800 words to impart on the subject. The rules state that in order for bananas to be sold anywhere in the EU - including in Britain - they have to meet certain criteria, including that they're 'free from bruises', 'free from any foreign smell' and, crucially, 'free from malformation or abnormal curvature of the fingers'.

So whilst Boris might be partially correct, to call it a 'directive on the curvature of bananas' seems like a stretch. After all, how bendy bananas are allowed to be only makes up part of the mammoth ruling about the fruit. To the former Mayor of London's credit, though, it does appear that there are at least four directives on bananas (EEC 404/93; EC 3518/93; EEC 4; EU 1333/2011; although one of these has since been repealed), suggesting that Boris has got right his tally of banana directives coming out of Brussels.

The European Commission itself admits that it's partially true that Brussels is meddling with our beloved bananas. But Boris will also be pleased to know that the directive itself points out that the purpose is not to 'impede the free circulation of bananas in the Community'. We've all heard of free movement of people in the European Union. But it also seems Brussels is determined to ensure that fruit - bendy or otherwise - is available in shops across the European Union. So although Boris might be partly telling the truth, it's probably better he just stops talking about bananas in the first place.

Update: The European Parliament have been in touch to clarify that EU regulation 1333/2011 has now replaced the old regulation 2257/94. Whilst the numbers are different, the banana rules are the same, and the EU commission still says that bananas must be 'free from abnormal curvature'. What's more, the new regulation now contains 4,465 words - more than twice as many as the repealed edict.