Regulation

Artifact: Rotten Tomato Rules

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Credit: SantaSweets.com

The government has finally done something about the shortage of decent, affordable tomatoes in the wintertime: made it worse. The produce gatekeepers on the Florida Tomato Committee, a New Deal relic charged with judging tomato quality (apparently a task too esoteric for consumers to handle on their own), won't allow a tasty but bumpy variety known as the UglyRipe to be shipped from the state's main growing area because they don't like the looks of it. As you can see, it lacks the perfect roundness the committee prefers.

The committee explains that its aesthetic requirements "serve to ensure customer satisfaction and improve grower returns. Not holding the UglyRipe tomato to these same standards defies orderly marketing and provides it unfair, undue marketing advantage." On one hand, the committee wants us to believe consumers would be so horrified by the UglyRipe's irregular appearance that they would run screaming from the produce section. On the other hand, we're told the UglyRipe would enjoy a competitive advantage over its smoother cousins, which would of course be wrong.

In an interview with USA Today, the committee's manager raised an even more chilling prospect. "If you allowed the producers of UglyRipe to ship any quality of tomato," he asked, "then how could you justify not allowing any quality tomato into the marketplace?"?

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