The Commission had been considering running a consumer information campaign for some time, to help the European fresh produce sector recover from the adverse impact of the German E.coli outbreak on sales of fresh fruit and veg in many member states.
On Monday, it issued a notice saying it was looking to run a special promotion programme for fruit and veg, with an additional budget of 15m over three years, and invited trade organisations across the EU to submit proposals for campaigns. These needed to be submitted to national authorities by 16 August, to be sent on to the EC by 15 September, it said. A decision would then follow on 15 November.
But a few hours later, the EC put out a further announcement, saying it would launch a consumer information campaign for fruit and veg the next day. It then ran a full-page advert in the Metro newspaper on Tuesday.
The FPC said although it had been aware of the EC's intention to run a promotional programme, the Metro ad came as a complete surprise.
To make matters worse, the ad itself which carried the strapline 'What's on the menu this summer? Fruit, vegetables and more vegetables' was inappropriate for the UK market, said FPC CEO Nigel Jenney.
"This poorly planned one-off ad is another example of the Commission's ineptitude. It makes no reference to UK businesses and will do nothing to help them or restore consumers' confidence in fresh produce," he said.
The FPC has written a letter to commissioner Dacian Ciolos, expressing its disappointment with the ad and the EC's lack of engagement with relevant stakeholders. It is particularly incensed that its Eat in Colour website address was mentioned on the Metro ad, even though it had not been informed about the advert.
"There are far more effective ways in which the EC can support UK businesses," the FPC said in its letter. "In addition, we request that the Commission works closely with the fresh produce industry to develop a more targeted and effective campaign."
The Commission said it had organised the ad at short notice to "contribute to restoring consumers' confidence", but did not disclose how much it had spent on the campaign.