Have you ever wondered why fruits all look the same and are usually blemish free? The answer simply is food waste! So much fresh produce from farms are rejected by stockists due to them not being ‘beautiful’ and ‘perfect’ enough to present on their shelves.
I was relieved when I saw a Guardian article with the headline: Tesco stocks green satsumas in drive to reduce food waste. The easy-peelers are ripe and edible but have just failed to turn the usual orange colour due to hotter weather in Spain. Usually these would all go to waste.
I feel that Tesco relaxing its quality specifications is a massive step for the industry. It is also likely that this change will shorten the food miles from farmer to customer. The handling/quality control stage of the process will be taken out and is said the shoppers will gain extra freshness for their satsumas and clementines.
Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have helped drive a campaign to encourage consumers to be less obsessed with perfection, and for supermarkets to relax their rules and sell more ‘wonky’ carrots and other odd-looking vegetables and fruit.
This is the same for apples. British growers have previously been forced to dump hundreds of tons of apples as they are not wanted by supermarkets that had strict rules regarding ‘blemish-free’ fruit. Again, Tesco has recently said it is now relaxing the normally tight specifications on how fruit looks to ensure the crop goes on sale. This would mean that growers will be able to supply a variety of apples, including an estimated 300 tonnes of Bramleys, which would have otherwise been rejected.
I was similarly shocked when I discovered that almost 90% of edible tomatoes are thrown away based on appearance. Another article I read on the Guardian stated that up to 87% of undamaged, edible tomatoes harvested from a commercial Queensland farm were rejected and wasted based on appearance. This to me directly highlights the massive problem of food wastage. Supermarkets have really high standards and as a result, the government estimates food waste costs the Australian economy $20bn each year.
The article shows the rejected tomatoes being dumped in a Bundaberg field. This time, it’s not just the colour that causes the rejection. A range of things contribute including shape, size, rub marks and insect activity.
I personally believe however, that farmers obey these rules, guidelines and standards that the supermarkets impose because failure to meet those standards may result in the supermarkets just choosing another supplier.
I have noticed more pressure being put on this issue over the last year. This is probably partly due to the rise in customers’ knowledge regarding the health of the environment and broader issues such as sustainability. I really hope that other supermarkets start to do the same as Tesco. If ‘ugly’ or misshapen fruit/vegetables are edible, I definitely do not think they should be going to waste. If this is adopted, I believe that the food waste problem would be massively reduced.