Buy ugly fruit and veg to redu

Buy ugly fruit and veg to reduce food wastage

In Europe we throw away 100 million tonnes of food every year. In the United States 40% of food produced is never eaten, yet there are one billion starving people in the world.

Buy ugly fruit and veg to redu

In Europe we throw away 100 million tonnes of food every year. In the United States 40% of food produced is never eaten, yet there are one billion starving people in the world.

Added to these shocking statistics, it’s estimated that four million people in the UK cannot afford a healthy diet with one in seven people over the age of 65 at serious risk of undernourishment.

We waste huge amounts of fruit and vegetables, and this is due, in part, to the consumer’s desire to purchase visually appealing produce, and strict EU rules and regulations that govern marketing standards which detail acceptable standards in size and shapes.

A number of years ago, ‘marketing standards’ for 26 types of fruit and vegetables were relaxed, which paved the way for the so called ‘ugly fruit and veg’ to be sold alongside their more perfect counterparts.

These regulations were updated because of growing protests from supermarkets, grocers and farmers alike that were forced to throw away produce because they did not meet exacting standards drawn up decades ago.

In a previous guideline on leeks, aubergines and courgettes, we read: “the white part of the leek must represent at least one third of the total length of half the sheathed part.” On aubergines: “the smallest and largest aubergines in the same packet must not exceed 20 mm for elongated aubergines and 25 mm for Globus aubergines.” Fortunately these guidelines have been scrapped.

Regulations are still in place for bananas: “straight bananas must be free of malformation or abnormal curvature.” The reason given was that the banana growers, buyers, traders or consumers did not object to the guideline.

Because of these unbelievable regulations, 20% of British Harvest in discarded to comply with the rulings, which in turn added 40% to the price of some vegetables, such as carrots.

Recently, Jamie Oliver interviewed a farmer who told viewers of the problems farmers face, being unable to sell their produce to supermarkets because they were not visually appealing.

People shop with their eyes. If they have the option of purchasing a shiny new well-proportioned apple, as opposed a bruised odd shaped one, they would probably selected the former. Even though they taste the same.

This concept to me is a bit bizarre, because if you go to a farmers market, shop or pick your own fruit and veg, you will be used to buying two pronged carrots, knobbly potatoes, and blemished apples, and perhaps will pay more than you would for the shop bought equivalent, because you are buying fresh, organic produce.

Produce at a local farmer's market
Produce at a local farmer’s market

Unfortunately nature and the elements do not always conspire to produce perfect produce. Take, for example, the apple farmers in the Western Cape, who experienced unpredictable hail and rain last year, which caused widespread flooding, resulting in massive loss of crops. 28% of the apple crop was affected, with 70% of the crops being superficially damaged.

There is some good news. Supermarkets, for example Waitrose, have been willing to sell weather damaged apples from South Africa in mixed bags of other varieties of apples such as royal gala, cripps pink and braburn.

One farmer from the Witzenburg valley, who has been supplying apples to the supermarket for the last ten years, reported that 75% of his crop had been damaged by hail, he was “overjoyed that the Waitrose has given him the opportunity to sell the fruit”, that would have been previously thrown away.

Asda has following suit by selling ugly fruit and vegetables in some of their stores, at a discounted price. Research has shown that 65% of customers would be willing to buy misshapen produce if it was discounted.

Intermache, a store in France has been selling ugly fruit and vegetables to customers at a discounted rate of 30%. The campaign was started to highlight the problem of food wastage and to give customers a cheaper shopping alternative. Intermache claimed that their Inglorious Range of misshapen produce has been a success. After three days, the 272 kg of carrots, apples and oranges on offer were all sold and customers had increased by 24%.

Sometimes you do not have the luxury of choice; you are so hungry that you are only too happy to eat whatever is available. A number of years ago a school teacher friend, in Gauteng, noted that the children in her classroom were falling asleep and were finding it difficult to concentrate. She suspected that they were hungry. To address the problem, she started to buy food, using her own money, but when the number grew to 55 children, all of which needed to be fed, she felt a bit desperate. She approached farmers, fruit and vegetable outlets in the area that were willing to supply her with produce that would have previously been discarded. Out of this, she was able to create nourishing soups, stews and fruit salads.

I doubt whether the children or my school friend would have cared less if the food was strange shaped, as once it was chopped, sliced, and mashed up, it made no difference. It was all tasty, and ready to be eaten by hungry children. The teacher noticed the children started to concentrate more on their school work. There was the hope that in getting an education, these children could perhaps break the poverty cycle that had befallen their parents. South Africa has enough food to feed its population, however there are 12–14 million people that do not know where the next meal will come from, and are at risk of starvation.


Italy’s annual waste  would be enough to feed 44 million people, which is the equivalent of all the undernourished people in Ethiopia. Annual food waste for France is enough to feed the entire population of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 5% food wasted by the USA, would feed 4 million people for 1 day. It is expected that by 2050 there will be nine billion people in the world; this means that 60% more food needs to be produced that is being produced currently.

After doing some research, I came across an article by Selina Juul called “Stop wasting food”. Juul is the founder of an organization called Stop the Waste, which is the largest non-profit consumer movement against food waste in Denmark. The organization aims to increase public awareness of the throwaway society by organizing campaigns, mobilising press and media, encouraging debates and events.


In her article, she describes a scenario in which bananas that have been grown in a developing country are transported to a western country only to be throw away as soon as they have arrived due to some “silly cosmetic reason,” she says. People in that same developing country lack food, and she asks the reader to imagine “looking these hungry people in the eye and telling them that the good bananas they have grown in their very own country are being thrown away, just as fast as they arrive in the Western world.”

She asks the question “how does the food we waste in the western world affect developing countries and hungry children in Africa”? Indirectly it does, because she states that the western world’s over consumption of food effects global food prices. The more we consume and throw away, or refused to buy because it’s not perfect, the greater the demand for food becomes, which in turn raises the price of food globally.

The way forward is to cut global food waste, one way is to back the campaigns to buy ugly fruit and veg.