Four big UK supermarkets have pledged to relax rules on misshapen fruit and vegetables, after demands from farmers suffering from bad weather. Should supermarkets stick to stocking ‘wonky’ fruit ‘n’ veg?
In a Conversation last year, Hannah Jolliffe brought up the issue of supermarkets refusing to stock fruit and vegetables that are misshapen or blemished. She even launched a ‘wonky challenge‘ to get you to buy into misshapen produce.
It’s something I feel strongly about, so I was interested to see the issue reappear this year. It seems Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have been persuaded by the National Farmers Union to relax their strict cosmetic standards on fruit and veg, because the dull, wet summer has made growing produce so difficult for farmers.
Waste not, want not
Feeding the 5,000, an organisation which campaigns against food waste, says that:
‘An estimated 20 to 40% of UK fruit and vegetables are rejected even before they reach the shops – mostly because they do not match the supermarkets’ excessively strict cosmetic standards.’
The original ban on ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables was introduced by the EU, but it was lifted for most misshapen produce in 2009 after an outcry about the amount of food being wasted.
Since that date any squeamishness about less-than-perfect produce has been enforced by the supermarkets. However, supermarkets argue that they can’t sell such ‘wonky’ fruit and veg to shoppers because they’re suspicious that they’re getting sub-standard food. And there may well be some truth in this…
Mother knows best
Like most children I’m sure, I was reminded regularly when I was little that there were others starving in the world, so I shouldn’t turn up my nose to the food on my plate! But aren’t we all doing that if we refuse to buy produce just because it isn’t perfectly shaped?
It seems silly enough to me that people are so often judged on how they look, without extending that silliness to fruit ‘n’ veg that we’re going to chop, slice, roast, boil or puree into something unrecognisable anyway.
Also, as someone who grows some very irregular fruit and vegetables on an allotment, I can guarantee that shape, good or bad, has no bearing on flavour. And freshness, which is important, can’t possibly be assessed by appearance alone, whatever we might like to believe.
I’ll be on the look-out for the imperfect fruit ‘n’ veg that will keep my family fed and help to keep our farmers in business when I’m next in the supermarket, but what about you?
Do you trawl through the boxes trying to find the most handsome baking potato? Do you refuse to buy a carrot with an extra leg, or an apple with a bump? Or are there more of us who really don’t mind knobbly parsnips than the supermarkets realise?
I think it would be good to support the farmers, reduce waste, and persuade the supermarkets that, even when the weather is good, deformed veg isn’t the end of the world.
Would you buy misshapen/blemished fruit 'n' veg from supermarkets?
Yes - how fruit 'n' veg looks has no bearing on taste (65%, 162 Votes)
Maybe - only if there was a discount on such fruit 'n' veg (27%, 67 Votes)
No - I like my fruit 'n' veg to look close to perfect (9%, 23 Votes)
Total Voters: 256