The end of perfect fruit and veg? MPs tell supermarkets to sell "wonky" as standard

Katie Morley
Though new wonky-friendly rules may disgruntle children and fussy eaters, it would provide a welcome boost to British farmers -  Steve Cavalier / Alamy

Wonky fruit and vegetables should be sold as standard, MPs have said, as they urge supermarkets to relax standards requiring produce to be "perfectly" shaped.

The recommendation, made in a food waste report published today by the influential Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, forms part of a new plan to stop millions of tonnes of edible produce being needlessly wasted each year.

Though new wonky-friendly rules may disgruntle children and fussy eaters, it would provide a welcome boost to British farmers, who have found their crops have been more crooked than usual in recent years. 

As vegetables tend to track the sun around the sky as they grow – and early spring sun levels are low - crops are developing an uncharacteristic crooked shape. Their size and shape is also affected by temperatures, which have been more changeable than usual.

Nei Parrish, chair of the Committee, said: "Shoppers have been brainwashed to expect that everything [fruit and veg] has to be perfect. Retailers have demanded hugely high quality from farmers, which has led to consumers thinking produce grows straight in the real world - but it does not.

Asda's original wonky veg box  Credit: ASDA

But there is a growing argument now that we would eat more or just as much if it wasn't perfect as people would like to see a bit more misshapen veg, which proves they are a real, living vegetable." 

It comes after supermarket's discount "wonky veg" lines were met with huge support from shoppers.

Asda was the first to sell imperfect vegetables as it launched a "wonky veg box" last year containing 5kg of fresh produce including carrots, potatoes, peppers, cucumber, cabbage, leeks, parsnips and onions. Boxes were priced at £3.50 which Asda said was 30pc cheaper than standard lines.

UK retailers are subject to a set of 10 EU legal standards on the size and shape of fruit and vegetables in shops, including those that apply to apples, tomatoes and strawberries, which prevent selling "imperfect" varieties to customers. However when Britain leaves the EU these may be stripped away, leaving supermarkets more free to sell imperfect produce. 

The report also calls on the Government to establish a national food waste reduction target to drive efforts to reduce the food waste costing the average person in the UK £200 per year. As part of this MPs want all supermarkets to publicly report data on the amount of food they throw in the bin. At present Tesco is the only store dong this. 

Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability, BRC said: “Tackling food waste is key to making the food supply chain more sustainable and we know retailers are pivotal to achieving that both directly in their businesses and supporting and working with partners; from farmers to customers. Retailers continue to work to deliver the food waste reduction targets agreed with the four UK Governments, but we also need to have a better, more comprehensive discussion about the environment; one that considers how we build a sustainable economy in its entirety, than focusing on single elements such as food waste.”

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