How to get around EU regulations on food imports

Brussels is facing an increasingly bitter dispute with France over the import of some of the world’s most popular vegetables.

France’s top court on Monday refused to block the importation of some cabbage from the UK, while it was reported that Italy is considering an embargo on tomatoes.EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said it was not up to the UK or Italy to decide whether they would abide by the EU rules, as it was up to them to set the rules.

“I don’t think it is up to individual countries to impose regulations on each other,” Almunio said.

“The Commission and its member states should be focused on ensuring that they do not undermine consumers’ rights.”

France, which is one of the EU’s largest food exporters, says it wants to protect its own market from foreign competition.

The UK has been trying to curb imports of tomatoes from the EU.

On Monday, a European court said that UK and Italy had violated EU competition rules in an effort to protect their own tomato market from imports from other EU countries.

The case centres on a Bulgarian vegetable, called Bulgarian-style cabbage.

The EU says the cabbage is imported under a “standard” that does not require a certificate of origin, meaning it was produced in a way that did not meet EU standards.

Britain, however, argues that Bulgaria is importing cabbage from a different standard.

The British case has been delayed by the Brexit negotiations and a UK government spokesman told Al Jazeera that it was considering its legal options.

But Almunios response was more muted.

“This is not a question of whether the UK can or cannot import Bulgarian-type cabbage, it is a question about how the EU regulates its trade in food,” he said.

Almunio also stressed that EU rules did not cover “the sale or distribution of agricultural products or other products or services” within the EU, saying EU rules “do not require that these are to be carried out in accordance with the relevant standards.”

In a joint statement with the UK government, the EU Food and Veterinary Authority said it would not interfere with British products or conduct a “limited investigation” of Bulgaria’s cabbage.

“The EU’s Food Safety Authority and its Member States have the right to act where the interests of consumers and the environment are at stake,” the EU said in a statement.

Al Jazeera’s Rachid Celik in Brussels and David Lister in Brussels contributed to this report.