As the human population continues to grow exponentially, adding ever-increasing pressure on agricultural suppliers, and climate change brings greater unpredictability ever year to both farmers and supermarkets, its nice to read in the press that one of the UK’s biggest food chains, Sainsbury’s, is ahead of the game. This year has seen the British Isles experience record rain in June and a bone-dry March, making it a double blow to farmers – the result, according to the Guardian newspaper is…uglier fruits and vegetables for consumers!
That’s right, when the going gets tough with a recession and terrible weather, cosmetic concerns and food vanity fly out the window. And it’s about time. It’s shocking to see how much food is wasted because it doesn’t fit a silly notion of beauty – people don’t realize that steaks and salmon are dyed with colouring agents, and that peppers don’t always grow to be ‘pretty.’ In the past they were discarded, but now the other UK supermarket giants, Morrisons and Waitrose, might follow Sainsbury’s lead. A recent Guardian article highlighting this bold volte-face said that the UK Soil Association estimates that “20-40% of some UK fruit and vegetables are rejected because they are misshapen or discoloured even before they reach the shops.” It’s shocking when you think of the unnecessary waste.
Friends of the Earth’s Vicki Hird was quoted thus: “It’s about time supermarkets woke up to the urgent need to reduce food waste by accepting perfectly good but irregular shaped fruit and vegetables. But they must not return to the bad old days when huge amounts of food was rejected because it didn’t meet their cosmetic standards.” The good news is that the reaction from the public has already been overwhelmingly positive – it seems something of a marketing coup, and one that’s long overdue. This sort of wastage won’t be acceptable anywhere on the planet soon enough, as the population will need an estimated 50% more food by 2040. The change starts now.