UK grocery stores are stocking their shelves with odd-looking vegetables and produce this season following a horrible growing season.

This past growing season has been characterized as one of the driest Marches and one of the wettest Junes in almost six decades, which has reduced the fruit and vegetable harvest in UK by more than 25% compared to previous seasons. As a result, some grocery stores cannot provide attractive, blemish-free fruits and vegetables to their consumers. This growing season’s vegetables had been described by The Guardian as “Knobbly carrots, wonky spuds, bent courgettes and discoloured cauliflowers.”

UK grocery stores and fruit and vegetable distributors are governed by the European Union food regulations. The Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 543/2011 details the rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 in respect to fruits and vegetables and processed fruits and vegetables. Regulation (EU) No 543/2011 outlines the specific marketing standards for many fruits and vegetables and the General Marketing Standard that applies to other fruits and vegetables. The specific standards fall in line with the internationally agreed UNECE standards. According to the EU regulations, fruits and vegetables sold in the UK must be intact, sound, clean, free from pest, free from damage, free of abnormal external moisture, free of any foreign smell/taste, be able to withstand transport, be able to meet maturity requirements, and other factors.

Grocery stores in the UK usually increase their own standards on which fruits and vegetables that they will allow to be sold in their stores. But, Sainsbury has “relaxed its rules” of the cosmetic factors of their fruits and vegetables. Food that otherwise would have been rejected is now in the produce section. “The unpredictable weather this season, has left growers with bumper crops of ugly-looking fruit and vegetables with reported increases in blemishes and scarring, as well as shortages due to later crops. We’ve committed to make use of all fruit and veg that meets regulation and stands up on taste, and hope customers will help us all make the most of the British crop in spite of its sometimes unusual appearance,” said Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s food. Morrisons and Waitrose, other supermarkets, have also “relaxed” their standards.

Grocery stores, like Sainsbury, are being praised by groups, such as the UK Soil Association and food and poverty campaigners, because in the past good fruit and vegetables have been rejected because of its appearance. Fruits and vegetables with blemishes and discolor do not fewer nutrients than ‘pretty’ fruits and vegetables. The UK Soil Association estimated that 20-40% of produce grown in the UK are rejected, which the  food and poverty campaigners are labeling as food waste.

Even though it was environmentally forced, supermarkets in the UK are creating less food waste by not placing so much weight on the aesthetics of the fruits and vegetables that they sell in their stores.



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