Page last updated at 04:53 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Supermarket's 'ugly' veg campaign

Vegetables on display
Farmers say odd-shaped fruit and veg taste just as good

Supermarket giant Sainsbury's has said it will challenge a ban on selling "ugly" fruit and vegetables which fail to meet EU rules on size and shape.

The move could reduce prices by up to 40% and cut down on the one-fifth of produce wasted, the retailer said.

The store has written to EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel over what it calls "bonkers" regulations.

It decided against selling a Hallowe'en range of mis-shapen fruit and veg for fear shop managers could be prosecuted.

'Customer choice'

Sainsbury's said it would also write to Environment Secretary Hilary Benn about the issue, and has launched an online poll for customers.

Among the items the supermarket chain said cannot be sold are:

  • Cauliflowers less than 11cm (4.3in) in diameter
  • "Forked" carrots (with more than one root)
  • Onions not at least two thirds covered with skin

Sue Henderson, of Sainsbury's, said: "We have been struggling to fit a square peg in a round hole for too long now when it comes to conforming to the more controversial elements of the EU regulations.

"We're not allowed to use up to 20% of what's produced in this country and in the current credit crunch climate, we cannot continue to waste this much food before it even leaves the farms.

She added: "Buying wonky veg would have saved cash-strapped Britons up to nearly 40% on some items such as carrots.

"It not only saves money, it also reduces waste and supports our British farmers. We strongly believe that now is the right time to challenge the impact these regulations have on our customer's choice."

Richard Hirst, chairman of the National Farmers' Union's (NFU) horticulture board, said nature "did not always comply with a perfectly-rounded apple and poker-straight carrot".

"People should be given the chance to buy odd-shaped fruit and veg as they taste just as good, he said.

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