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Third of fruit and veg is wasted before it reaches shops and restaurants

New research has found that a third of European farmed fruit and veg is wasted before it reaches shops and restaurants for being too “ugly”.

The research by the University of Edinburgh found that over 50 million tonnes of fresh produce is discarded every year because its appearance doesn’t meet supermarket standards. In the UK alone it is estimated that 4.5 million tonnes are wasted each year.

University of Edinburgh researchers described food loss and waste as “one of the great scourges of our time” while 10% of the world’s population goes hungry.

The researchers findings read: “The use of aesthetics for classifying and accepting fresh food for sale and consumption is built into food quality standards and regulations of the European Union.

“The food distribution sector in Europe and the UK is oligopolistic in nature; a small number of supermarket chains control a large market share. The influence of these ‘multiples’ enables them to impose additional proprietary ‘quality’ criteria.

“Produce that doesn’t meet these standards may be lost from the food supply chain, never seeing a supermarket shelf – it may not get past the supplier, or even leave the farm.”

“We estimate avoidable FLW from on-farm cosmetic grade-outs of up to 4,500 kt yr (4.5 million tonnes per year) in the UK and 51,500 kt yr (51.5 million tonnes per year) in the European Economic Area (EEA). Our estimates suggest over a third of total farm production is lost for aesthetic reasons.”

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