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Tesco to leave soil on spuds to cut waste

Tesco will sell unwashed potatoes in over 250 stores following a successful trial in which shelf-life was nearly doubled.

The supermarket is looking at a return to selling potatoes in the traditional way as part of efforts to cut down on food waste.

Potatoes are the UK’s single most wasted food in the home ahead of bread and milk, according to WRAP, however leaving soil on them helps block out light and slows down their natural decay.

Last November, Tesco ran an initial trial of selling unwashed organic white potatoes across 120 stores in Bristol and the surrounding areas to see the customer response. It said the pilot was a success and is now extending the move to 262 stores.

The trial is being run in partnership with Branston, one of the UK’s biggest potato suppliers. During the initial pilots, Tesco and Branston discovered that shelf-life for the unwashed potatoes nearly doubled – offering up to an extra five days of freshness.

“Up until about 50 years ago potatoes would generally be sold unwashed and having a natural film of soil around them would help keep them fresher for longer. But towards the end of the 1970s, supermarkets and greengrocers in general moved towards selling more cosmetically perfect produce and as a result, potatoes were washed before being put out on display,” explained Tesco Produce lead technical manager Rob Hooper.