Name: Tim Down

Location: Bristol

Date: 2008

Occupation: Fruit Wholesaler

Offence: Having for sale, kiwis that were four grams too light, contravening EU laws.

What a remarkable world we live in, one where consumers have to be mollycoddled, one where for years retailers were banded from selling misshapen fruit and vegetables, one where five thousand kiwis were binned for being 1mm in diameter too small.

It’s foodie nirvana

Thankfully these draconian laws were scrapped not long after Mr Down suffered at the hands of kiwigate – no it’s not New Zealand Immigration – unfortunately, retailers still haven’t caught up.

Rather than being outright banned from buying or supplying wonky fruit and vegetables it’s now at the retailer’s own discretion whether or not they do. Surprise! They don’t.

As a result, a bizarre situation has developed: farmers and producers produce more fruit and vegetables than their contracts require, to allow for the losses of imperfect food.  For your part consumers, you have to pay more to cover the food that gets thrown away, with regards to carrots that figure is up to forty percent.

In October 2013 Farmers Guardian ran an article calling for more ‘shaped’ fruit to be accepted by retailers and consumers alike.  Thankfully, it seems someone was listening. As reported by the Independent, this weekend will see Waitrose sell weather-blemished apples.

This is seen as a major retail first.

In Ghana, Kenya and South Africa foul weather has damaged around seventy percent of the apple crop, seventy percent that would have been thrown away merely because they’ve been marked by hail.

Is the westernised human race so pompous we refuse to eat apples marked by the odd hailstone?

I doubt it, I hope not, and the success of Waitrose’s project will ultimately tell. I think we’ve just lost track of the realties regarding food, misunderstanding what it means and how we might find it. Therefore in response and to gain our hard-earned cash, supermarkets have battled each other, tooth and claw, raising the stakes and artificially raising the standards of food.

Consumers don’t care about perfect food

Don’t think you get away scot-free dearest consumer. Every day we buy into this unnatural standardised perfection and every day we throw away 24million slices of bread, 5.8million potatoes and 5.9 million glasses of milk. Alongside the rest.

One can deduce therefore that we don’t place value into the work done to improve our food, surely if we did we wouldn’t dare throw as much away.

One can deduce therefore that we’d be happy to buy a slightly blemished apple or a dynamically shaped carrot and kiwi.

So why don’t we?

Because we don’t understand. We live so far away from the source of our food – cooped up in offices – as I am now. We walk out of one climate-controlled environment and straight into another that’s filled to the rafters with idealised perfection. The one place that you might encounter the realities of authentic food are farm shops, but the majority of the populous never frequents them.

It would fantastic therefore to see more farm shops in city centres, to provide and educate consumers about honest, real food – it’s a story and a situation that people yearn for but when convenience is king, driving out of town isn’t convenient.

Until the rural trickle starts flooding into urban areas the best thing we can do is buy every last packet of Waitrose blemished apples. To show that we’re not afraid of naturalised food, to highlight that we will buy it and to put an end to the travesty of wastefulness.

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Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. Cracking stuff!! If the Caversham branch of Waitrose Hadn’t closed 35 mins ago, I’d be down there buying apples!! So have you tracked down the head of Waitrose and see if he/she is on Twitter and Tweeted this too hashtagging them??

    Just a thought… 🙂

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply
  2. Completely agree here Gareth – we need to buy more ugly food! I wouldn’t dream of throwing away a carrot I had grown myself because it was a bit different to the rest, so why should farmers have to?

    I tried to reblog this on my site but the reblog button appears to be broken!

    Maddi

    Reply
    • Yes! We should embrace both the ugly fruit and all the incredible Instagram and Twitter photo opportunities they provide, roll on misshapen apples!

      (they might not actually roll)

      Reply
  3. […] Food waste. Disgrace. | Gareth Barlow. […]

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  4. […] Food waste. Disgrace. | Gareth Barlow. […]

    Reply
  5. Whilst I do agree with the sentiments of this article I can confirm that misshapen and scarred produce is alive and well in Leeds Wholesale Market, we have held the contract to supply 300 schools in the Leeds City Council region for almost 10 years and part of the tender that they have recently written specifically requests options for ‘class 2’.

    Our small team in the office regularly liaise with those on the ground, the ‘dinner ladies’ to advise that its only the skin of the melon that’s scarred, inside its just as lovely as a shiny clean one and they totally get it.

    We supply market traders, you’ll find all types of product at Neils Fruit in Leeds Kirkgate Market and at the RK Harris shops in the Leeds area, whilst I would be happy to see the ‘big boys’ getting on board with the concept I am also conscious that many traditional wholesale markets exist to take on what supermarkets reject.

    Reply
    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comment and insight into the non-supermarket fruit and veg trade. It sounds incredibly interesting – would it ever be possible to come down one day for a chat and see what your business gets up to? It would make a fascinating feature. Thanks GB

      Reply

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