However, a Conservative MP is hoping to reverse the trend after calling for misshapen vegetables and fruit to be specially promoted in supermarkets.
MP for Thanet South, Laura Sandys, wants to set up a company specifically to sell ugly looking food.
She said, “We have had very cheap food in the UK for many years. In some ways this has driven us to value it much less, so while we don’t pay much for food it costs us more money to produce it.”
Sandys has plans to market the food under the brand name Ugly and has been talking about the matter with farmers to understand why some fresh food is rejected by supermarkets.
She said, “You see the most amazing reasons,
“For example, an apple that may not have enough red on one side, or too much green on the other. These apples do get used in things like apple juice, but obviously at a much lower [price]. Why should an apple that has not enough red or green not be acceptable when it tastes exactly the same?”
Bureaucrats in the EU relaxed the strict regulations in 2008 that specified the shape and size of vegetables and fruit, which allowed more irregular produce to go on sale.
The rules changed following protests from people in the food industry including grocers, farmers, restaurant insurance providers, supermarkets and even the Prince of Wales, who had to throw away food that didn’t measure up to the exact requirements. In 2009 the rules were further relaxed.
It is estimated that 20% of the British harvest is thrown away to comply with EU regulations. This is calculated to add as much as 40% to the price of some vegetables, including carrots.
Sandys criticised the supermarkets’ seeming obsession with perfection and beauty. She said, “They are spending more time and money insuring this food is absolutely beautiful which in itself is wasteful,” she said, adding that she had been discussing her retail idea with the National Farmers Union and the British Retail Consortium.
“I would like to see it in supermarkets but we would also be looking at smaller retailers and wholesalers who may end up selling it to places like restaurants.”