EC rule on salad seed hits mixes

Seed producers forced to stop selling mixed salad leaf seed packets under latest EU legislation.

EU legislation is forcing seed producers to stop selling mixed salad leaf seed packets.

Until recently, the legislation did not allow mixing of varieties, explained Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) plant varieties and seeds policy team leader Andrew Mitchell.

An EC concession now allows mixtures of the same species, such as radish or lettuce. However, it will not allow mixing seeds such as lettuce, lamb's lettuce, spinach, chard, parsley or chervil that mirror bags of mixed salad leaves in supermarkets.

Vegetable Seed Marketing Directives (2011/180/EU) is described as a significant relaxation of the legislation. But for the UK it means more enforcement.

"In the UK we have taken a pragmatic approach to enforcing legislation," said Mitchell. But after the new ruling, FERA issued a guide on seed companies' legal position. Seed firms understood there was a deadline of July to comply, but Mitchell said there was no set date and companies can sell seeds that have already been packed.

The EC had been made aware of the demand for mixed seeds in the UK, said Mitchell: "But we didn't get what we wanted."

The UK wanted less legislation but eastern European members that had changed to comply with EU rules were reluctant to change again, he added. Western EU countries flagged the issue because the UK has such a big mail-order seed trade with them.

The regulations only cover EU-regulated seed. "You can include anything not regulated provided you don't mix it with certified seeds," said Mitchell.

FERA seed marketing officer Tony Watts said Suttons and Thompson & Morgan (T&M) were among those with products affected.

However, T&M said it had yet to hear from FERA. Suttons said it was in discussions and would not comment further.

Mr Fothergill's commercial director Tim Jeffries said: "As recently confirmed by FERA, packets of mixed vegetables within the same EU regulated species are permissible for UK sale. All Mr Fothergill's and Johnsons packets comply."

He added: "We do mix non-regulated seed - for example, mizuna, rocket, some herbs and pak choi - or UK exempt seed such as peppers, which is also permissible."

Producer's view of change in legislation

"The Food & Environment Research Agency is saying you are not allowed to mix different species but I'm not sure why. It's not protecting the consumer - there is nothing to protect them from. This is the same as supermarkets selling mixed salad bags. There is some discussion to be had. This is important for the hobby gardener. Mixed seed has been sold in Italy and California for centuries."

Charles Seddon, business development manager, CN Seeds.

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