Food waste report reveals high levels of fresh produce wastage down to aesthetics

A NEW food waste report has shown that up to two-fifths of fruit or vegetables is wasted because they are ‘ugly’.


Fresh produce grown in the UK that does not meet retailer standards on size or shape is often used for animal feed or ploughed back into the ground, regardless of whether it is perfectly edible.


The report, commissioned by the UK’s global food security programme also showed that the average household throws away more than 5kg of food a week, with nearly two-thirds of that avoidable.


The waste costs £480 a year per household on average, and £680 per family.


The study showed that the two areas where the majority is wasted in the UK is initial production and then consumer consumption.


Retailers claim they are bound by standards demanded by consumers for high-quality food, but evidence suggests that consumers in the UK are increasingly open to ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables, amid growing awareness of sustainability issues and increasing food prices.


Tackling waste globally is a major part of the action needed to provide enough food to feed a growing world population sustainably and tackle hunger, which affects one in eight people worldwide, the report said.


Around a third of food produced globally is lost or wasted, and was a key feature of a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) summit held earlier in 2013, where delegates urged supermarkets and grocers to relax cosmetic standards on fruit and vegetables, to help tackle the global problem of food waste.


The call came from ministers and diplomats attending the Programme’s annual summit in Nairobi, Kenya where they were fed a meal prepared from a tonne of food rejected by the UK for retail purposes.

Prof Tim Benton, an expert on Food Security at the University of Leeds,said: “Over 5 million people in the UK live in deep poverty, where basic food provision is a daily challenge.


“Nearly 400,000 people needed support from food banks last year, according to the Trussell Trust.


“At the same time, 15m tonnes of food is wasted annually, with nearly half discarded within UK households. Reducing the scale of losses and waste throughout the entire food system is a crucial step towards improving global food security.”