The Rules That Govern

How quality-controlled-rhubarb must meet certain standards of trade-policy is firm.

Ever thought about the specifics of how rhubarb quality is monitored? I never have, but I was given some interesting reading on the subject.

Certain standards and rules govern rhubarb just like any other vegetable when it comes to international trade-policy for produce. It is interesting to note how and what requirements must be met at export.

How is this even decided?

The UNECE, or "United Nations Economic Commission for Europe" is a part of the United Nations that sets policy development and standards to follow. Well over 50 countries worldwide take part in the forum provided by the UNECE to gather and exchange ideas on quite a number of topics related to economic issues such as the environment, energy, trade and so on.

The UNECE offers assistance in the way of workshops, seminars, advisory services, and also in a technical capacity by their own experts.

For trade-policy purposes, quality-controlled-rhubarb is defined as leaf stalks grown from "Rheum rhaponticum L." and supplied to the consumers as fresh.

Typically, the rhubarb is classified either as Class 1 or Class 2.

Generally, Class 1 rhubarb must be of a good quality. Regarding the mode-of-cultivation, it must possess the characteristics of that specific variety. The stalks must be well developed.

Forced rhubarb must be deep pink or red in color for a minimum of 2/3 of the stalk. The stalk must be straight and have no bud sheaths. If there is any leaf blade, it must not be damaged

Rhubarb in Class 2 includes rhubarb that does not qualify for Class 1, but at the same time meets minimal requirements with some allowances for slight defects, as long as the rhubarb exhibits their particular important characteristics.

There are overall minimum requirements that are subject to certain provisions depending on the class and the level of intolerances allowed.


Stalks in one piece

No rotting or deterioration



no visible pest damage



mostly unbruised

has to have specific color related to mode-of-cultivation

no abnormal moisture on the outside

no foreign smell or taste

able to withstand transport

arrive in good condition

If the rhubarb has been grown in a forcing shed, there may be a leaf blade present.

If the rhubarb was grown any other way, the leaf blade must be neatly cut 5 cm. from the top of the stalk and no more.

Size of the stalks are factors and measured by length and diameter dependent upon where they came from.

For example, these measurements depend on whether or not the rhubarb came from a forcing shed, was grown in the open, or was grown in the open, but not forced.

There are 10% intolerances allowed in Class 1 and 2 regarding quality and size for rhubarb that does not meet the complete requirements overall that are packaged or in an unpackaged bundle.

What is not allowed, is deterioration of the product that renders it unfit for human consumption.

market rhubarb

Quality-controlled-rhubarb must meet packaging standards as well.

The produce has to be protected properly by materials that are clean, new, and of good quality. Labelling has to done with glue or non-toxic ink.

There cannot be any foreign substances all over the bundles.

Rhubarb must be packaged in neat rows.

Uniform Variety (not mixed types in one bundle)

Produce must be clearly marked if not visible as to type.

All proper identification must be visible as well in regard to origin of the produce. This would include things like the country, the variety, shipper, packager, weight and any other particulars from this category.

It's good to know that there are organizations that keep a watchful eye on the foods that are presented to us as consumers.

If you would like to read more about the UNECE and the good works that they are involved in, you can visit them here.


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