Imperfect vegetables back on the EU table

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

11-26-08_BrusselSproutsUnbeknown to many in the European Union, I am sure, fruits and vegetables deemed unattractive or imperfect such as knobby carrots and overly-curvy cucumbers were actually banned from being sold to consumers. This ban. However, has been lifted finally in July 2009 (I know it is 2014 now but still relevant to some extent). It is interesting to note, though, that the ban only included certain fruits and veggies.

The rules on standards for apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocados, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shells, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, water melons and chicory have gone completely. Other standards, however, for apples, strawberries, citrus fruit, kiwis, lettuces, peaches, nectarines, pears, sweet peppers, grapes and tomatoes remain, but supermarkets have the option to sell less than perfect produce under specific labels such as “different”, “extra”, or “Class I”.

While the lifting of the ban appears to be good news in terms of reduction of waste, some are doubtful it will make a difference. Alyn Smith, a Scottish MEP from the Scottish National Party and a member of the European Parliament's agriculture committee said that the claim is doubtful because supermarket standards are probably more stringent than the EU rules are. In other words, the nearly 40% of fruits and vegetables thrown into the trash because they are not up to snuff will probably continue to be chucked.

While in Belgium it is now illegal for supermarkets to throw away food at the end of the day; it will have to be given away to certain good causes, dumpster diving is and remains illegal.

The problem, however, does not just begin with the perfectly good food being thrown out at the end of the day by supermarkets (and even market traders) but by supermarket buyers and wholesalers already discarding the non-perfect potatoes, carrots, etc., in the field or from the delivery of a farmer.

We are throwing away enough perfectly good edible food – pre-consumer – that not a single person on this Planet would need to go hungry and we don't even want to talk about how much it would be when we consider how much consumers themselves toss away because it has reached the “best before” date or has gone off in their homes.

© 2014