Supermarkets urged to sell ‘wonky veg’ as standard to cut food waste

Emily Beament
The 'wonky' vegetables are chosen because they are either misshapen, have growth cracks or are smaller or larger than average: AFP/Getty

Supermarkets should sell “wonky veg” as part of their main fruit and vegetable lines to help cut food waste, MPs have urged.

Knobbly carrots and parsnips do not taste or cook any differently from other vegetables and should be saved from supermarket reject bins, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chairman Neil Parish said.

Both supermarkets and the Government need to do more to tackle the UK’s food waste problem, which sees £10bn worth of food thrown away by households each year, according to a report from the parliamentary committee.

The Government should set an “ambitious” national reduction target to cut the food waste that costs the average person £200 a year, the MPs said.

Raising awareness of food waste from a young age should be a priority and the Government should examine how lessons on food and avoiding waste can be incorporated into the curriculum, they said.

It is also essential that waste reduction body Wrap, which has seen its public funding cut despite its achievements in reducing food waste through voluntary agreements, has sufficient money from the Government to maintain its efforts.

The incoming government should continue with a review on food date labelling, looking particularly at whether there is a need for “best before” dates, which can mislead and confuse people.

And it should force food businesses and retailers over a certain size to separate food waste for collection.

Supermarkets should be required by the Government to publish data on the amount of food they bin, the report said, commending Tesco for already doing so and Sainsbury’s for moving in the same direction.

Retailers should also increase the amount of surplus food they give away to charities instead of putting in the bin, and improve their packaging, such as increasing resealable packets, to help consumers reduce waste.

Mr Parish said: “Economically, food waste costs households hundreds of pounds a year and causes increased disposal costs to local authorities, pushing up council tax bills.

“Socially, it is a scandal that people are going hungry and using food banks when so much produce is being wasted.

“And environmentally it is a disaster, because energy and resources are wasted in production only for the food to end up rotting in landfill where it produces methane – a potent climate-changing gas.”

He called for the Government to drive progress on reducing food waste in England with a national target in the same way that Scotland, the US and European countries do.

“And supermarkets need to do much more. It’s ridiculous that perfectly good vegetables are wasted simply because they’re a funny shape.

“Farmers supplying fruit and vegetables to UK supermarkets currently get their produce rejected on the grounds that it fails to meet cosmetic quality standards set by the big retailers.

“Knobbly carrots and parsnips don’t cook or taste any different. It’s high time we saved them from the supermarket reject bins,” he said.


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