European Union requirements regarding the commercial quality of apples

Presence of products differentiated in terms of quality, fulfilling the requirements of various quality classes, favors competitiveness and better prices for products of higher quality. The main objective of determining standards of marketable quality for fresh fruit and vegetables intended for direct consumption is the elimination of low-quality products from the market.

The standards which are in force in the European Union, included in regulations of the Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (CMO) in the sector of fruit and vegetables, are coherent with the norms of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The scope of commercial quality norms for fresh fruit and vegetables

According to the decree of the European Parliament and Council (EU) no. 1308/2013 of 17 December 2013 establishing the common organisation of agricultural product markets and repealing the Council decrees (EEC) no. 922/72, (EEC) no. 234/79, (EC) no. 1037/2001 and (EC) no. 1234/2007, products of the fruit and vegetable sector intended for sale to consumers as fresh products may be marketed only if they have solid and proper marketable quality and if the country of origin is indicated. The above commercial standards apply to all stages of marketing, including import and export, and may refer quality, classification, weight, packaging, storage, transport, presentation and marketing activities. The owner of products of the fruit and vegetable sector subject to the commercial norms may display these products, offer them for sale, deliver and market in the EU only in compliance with these norms and is responsible for ensuring such compliance. Additionally, the production and marketing of fruits and vegetables should take full consideration of the matter of environmental protection, including methods of cultivation, waste management and manner of disposing products withdrawn from the market, especially with regard to protection of water quality, maintaining biological variety and care for rural areas.

Particular commercial norms for apples

According to the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 543/2011 of 7 June 2011 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 in respect of the fruit and vegetables and processed fruit and vegetables sectors, apples are covered by specific marketing standards.

A particular commercial norm is applied to varieties of apples grown of the species Malus domestica Borkh, which are delivered fresh to the consumer, with the exclusion of apples intended for the food processing industry.

The purpose of the norm is to determine quality requirements for apples, after their preparing and packing.

Minimal requirements

In all quality classes, subject to particular regulations for a given class and admissible tolerance, apples must be:

  • whole,
  • healthy; products with signs of rotting or damage, making them unfit for consumption, are excluded,
  • clean, practically free of any obvious foreign substances,
  • practically free of pests,
  • practically free of damage caused by pests,
  • free of excess external moisture,
  • free of any foreign odours or tastes.

In addition, apples should be picked carefully.

The degree of development and state of apples must enable them:

to continue the process of ripening and to reach the degree of ripeness required depending on variety characteristics, to withstand transport and loading and to get to their destination in a satisfactory state.

Classification

Apples are classified into three classes described below:

Class extra

  • Apples in this class must of the highest quality. Regarding shape, size and colour they must have the characteristic features of a given variety and whole stems.
  • The fruit’s pulp must be in an ideal state.
  • They must be free of any defects, with the exception of very insignificant external damage, provided that this doesn’t affect the general appearance of the product, its quality, maintenance and presentation in the packaging.

Class I

  • Apples in this class must be of good quality. Regarding shape, size and colour they must have the characteristic features of a given variety.
  • The fruit’s pulp must be in an ideal state.
  • They may however have the following insignificant defects, provided that these do not affect the general appearance of the product, its quality, maintenance and presentation in the packaging:
  • insignificant shape defects,
  • minor developmental defects,
  • insignificant colour defects,
  • minor skin defects, which may not exceed:

- 2 cm length in the case of defects of an elongated shape,

- 1 cm² of total surface in the case of other defects, with the exception of instances of scab (Venturia inaequalis), whose total surface may not exceed 0.25 cm²,

- 1 cm² of total surface in the case of insignificant and not discoloured indenting/bruising.

The apples may not have a stem, provided that the breaking-off point is clean, and the surrounding skin is not damaged.

Class II

This class includes apples that do not qualify to the above classes, but fulfil the following minimum requirements:

  • The fruit’s pulp may not have large defects.
  • The following defects are admissible, provided that the fruit retains its basic characteristics regarding quality, maintenance and appearance:
  • shape defects,
  • developmental defects,
  • colour defects,
  • skin defects, which may not exceed:

- 4 cm length in the case of defects of elongated shape,

- 2.5 cm² of total surface in the case of other defects, with the exception of instances of scab (Venturia inaequalis), whose total surface may not exceed 1 cm²,

- 1.5 cm² of total surface in the case of minor, slightly discoloured bruising.

REGULATIONS REGARDING SIZE

Size is determined on the basis of the maximum cross-section diameter or weight.

For all varieties and classes the minimum size is 60 mm, if determined on the basis of diameter; or 90 g, when determined on the basis of weight. Smaller fruit are admissible is the amount of extract in the product (in Brix degrees) is at least 10.5° Brix, and its size is at least 50 mm or 70 g.

In order to ensure uniformity of size in packages:

  • in cases where the fruit size is determined on the basis of diameter, the difference in diameter between particular fruits in the package may amount to:
  • 5 mm in the case of fruit of class ‘extra’ or fruit of classes I and II, packed in rows and layers. For apples of the Bramley's Seedling variety (i.e. Bramley, Triomphe de Kiel) and Horneburger, the difference in diameter may be up to 10 mm and
  • 10 mm in the case of fruit of class I packed loose or in retail packages. For apples of the Bramley's Seedling variety (i.e. Bramley, Triomphe de Kiel) and Horneburger, the difference in diameter may amount to 20 mm.
  • In cases where the size of fruit is determined on the basis of weight, the difference in weight of particular fruit in the package may amount to:
  • 20 % of the average fruit weight in a given package in the case of fruit class ‘extra’ and fruit of classes I and II, packed in rows and layers, and
  • 25 % of the average weight of fruit in a given package in the case of fruit of class I packed loose or in single packages.

For fruit of class II packed loose or in packages, there are no requirements regarding uniformity of size.

REGULATIONS REGARDING TOLERANCE

In each package,  there is an admissible tolerance of quality and size for products not meeting the requirements of an indicated class.

Quality tolerance

Class extra

5 % of the number or weight of apples not meeting requirements of this class, but fulfilling the requirements of class I or, exceptionally, falling within its range of tolerance.

Class I

10 % of the number or weight of apples not meeting the requirements of this class, but fulfilling the requirements of class II or, exceptionally, falling within its range of tolerance.

Class II

10 % of the number or weight of apples not meeting the requirements of this class or the minimum requirements, with the exception of products with signs of rotting or damage, rendering them unfit for consumption.

Within the range of this tolerance, it is admissible for 2 % of the number or weight of fruit to show the following defects:

  • serious cork spot (bitter pit) or water-core
  • insignificant damage or unhealed cracks,
  • very minor signs of rotting,
  • the presence of pests feeding inside the fruit or damage to the pulp caused by pests.

Size tolerance

For all classes: tolerance amounts to 10 % of the number or weight of fruit not meeting requirements regarding admissible sizes. This tolerance may not be extended to products, whose size:

  • is over 5 mm less than the minimum diameter in the case of determining size on the basis of diameter,
  • is over 10 g less than the minimum weight in the case of determining size on the basis of weight.

REGULATIONS CONCERNING PRESENTATION

Uniformity

The content of each package must be uniform and contain only apples of the same origin, variety, quality and size (if the product is sorted according to size) and with the same degree of ripeness.

In the case of class extra, the uniformity requirement also regards colour of fruit.

The mixing of apples of various types in retail packages with a weight not exceeding 5 kg is admissible, provided that all the varieties are uniform with regard to quality, origin, size (if the product is sorted according to size) and have the same degree of ripeness.

The visible part of the package must be representative of its whole content.

Packing

Apples must be packed in a manner that ensures proper protection of the product. In particular, retail packages weighing more 3 kg should be sufficiently stiff in order to ensure appropriate protection of the product.

Materials used inside the package must be new, clean and of such quality that allows the avoidance of any, external or internal, damage to the product. The use of materials such as paper or stamps with commercial information is admissible, provided that the print or label have been made of non-toxic ink or glue.

Packages must be free of any foreign substances.

Stickers attached to each product should not leave visible traces of glue or lead to damage of the skin upon removal.

Presentation

Fruit of class extra must be packed in layers.

REGULATIONS REGARDING LABELLING

On each package, the following information should be placed on the same side, in a legible and durable manner, as well as visible from the outside:

Identification

Name and address of the packer or dispatcher.

This note may be replaced:

  • for all packages with the exception of individual packages, the officially issued or confirmed indication code of the packer or dispatcher, placed near the term ‘packer’ or ‘dispatcher’ (or appropriate abbreviations),
  • exclusively for packaged products, the name and address of the seller with main office in the EU, placed near the words: ‘packed for:’ or synonymous expression. In this case the label also contains the indication code of the packer or dispatcher. The seller makes available all information concerning the meaning of this code recognized as necessary by inspection authorities.

Type of product:

  • ‘apple’, if the content is not visible on the outside,
  • in relevant cases the name of the variety or varieties,
  • in the case of retail packages containing a mixture of different apple varieties, the name of each variety found in the package.

Product origin

Country of origin and, optionally, the region of cultivation or national, regional or local name of the place of origin.

  • In the case of retail packages containing a mixture of apple varieties of various origins, it is required to place an indication of each country of origin with the name of a given variety.

Commercial specifications:

  • class,
  • size or, in the case of fruit packed in layers, number.

If identification is carried out on the basis of size, it should be expressed:

  • for a product subject to principles of uniformity, by giving the minimum and maximum diameter or the minimum and maximum weight,
  • for a product not subject to principles of uniformity, by giving the diameter or weight of the smallest fruit in the package with the words ‘and larger’ or ‘+’ or equivalent expression, in relevant cases giving the diameter or weight of the largest fruit.

Mark of official inspection (optional)

Packaging should not have any markings that could mislead consumers. If packages are on pallets, detailed information should be given on labels placed in a visible place, on at least two sides of the pallet.[1]

[1] Material prepared on the basis of: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/pl/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32011R0543