According to a study by the University of Edinburgh, the equivalent of 50 million tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables across Europe is thrown out annually before it even makes it to the supermarket.
The authors studied how much food is discarded each year before it reaches the point of being sold and found that a combination of strict government regulations, supermarkets’ high standards and consumers’ expectations of how fruit and vegetables should look had led to the loss of more than one-third of produce before point of sale.
It highlighted that, in the UK, cosmetic grade-out losses were dominated by potatoes and carrots.
The report suggested that “greater awareness amongst consumers, and a movement towards shopping sustainably” could help the sale of “ugly” fruit and vegetables.
“Encouraging people to be less picky about how their fruit and vegetables look could go a long way to cutting waste, reducing the impact of food production on the climate, and easing the food supply chain,” said Stephen Porter of the University’s School of GeoSciences and report co-author.
“The scale of food that is wasted when it is perfectly safe to eat is shocking at a time when one-tenth of the world’s population is perpetually underfed,” added Professor David Reay of School of GeoSciences and co-author.
The report also suggested that Brexit might afford an opportunity to reduce this wastage.
“A changing political climate within the UK also looms large on the horizon for the agriculture industry. The details and domestic policy implications of the UK's expected exit in 2019 from the European Union (or ‘Brexit’) remain unknown. Brexit may offer the UK the opportunity to develop and apply policy options for domestically-consumed FFV that current EU regulations may not permit, such as banning the use of cosmetic characteristics as factors in determining ‘quality’. However, it is far from certain the UK Government would adopt such a policy, especially if they choose to keep open the prospects of trade with EU countries.”