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151110wastenot
One-third of the food produced in the UK never gets eaten – it never even gets to the shops! – but 13 million people in the country are struggling simply to afford the food our supermarkets offer.

That was the hideous truth behind yesterday’s (Monday, November 9) revelation that supermarkets reject fruit or vegetables that they do not consider to be cosmetically attractive.

The facts were uncovered by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in Hugh’s War on Waste, broadcast on BBC1 at 9pm. You should be able to find it on iPlayer for the next few weeks.

Probably the most appalling part of the film was the segment in which he visited a parsnip farm in Norfolk, where he uncovered the truth about the supermarkets’ strict cosmetic standards: any slightly imperfect fruit or veg are rejected.

Not only that, but evidence was put on screen showing that supermarkets have been cancelling or reducing orders for farm produce at extremely short notice, meaning produce being thrown on the scrap heap by the tonne.

This demeaning treatment had proved too much for the farming family in the film; it documented their last day as a business, having been forced to give up the livelihood they loved due to the supermarkets’ wasteful behaviour.

It’s not good enough.

This Blog has reported, many times, the straits into which the UK’s poor have been forced, simply to get food. Low-income working families are struggling to put food on the table – a situation that will become much worse in the future, no matter whether George Osborne cuts tax credits or Universal Credit; the unemployed and sick/disabled aren’t receiving enough benefit money to feed themselves properly; and some people have been cut off from all means of support – one such person was crushed to death by a refuse lorry while he was searching for food in litter bins.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall tried to get one supermarket to acknowledge that perfectly good food was being thrown away, but achieved only minor success. While bosses agreed to display some less cosmetically attractive produce, they offered it at the same price as the rest, thereby putting customers off. The intention had been to bring prices down (so you can see why that would not appeal to the greedy chains).

Normally, that would be the end of the story. The supermarkets would have been exposed as money-grubbing pond-life, but with nowhere else to go, most of us would still have ended up supporting them, and nothing would have changed, in the normal run of events.

Would have.

But Mr F-W isn’t willing to let it lie. He has launched a campaign called #wastenot offering you a chance to get involved. I already did.

Like Mr F-W, I agree that wasting millions of tonnes of food a year is unacceptable.

I want the supermarkets to put a stop to this.

I want to help persuade supermarkets to take responsibility for the waste that they cause in the supply chain. I want them to relax their cosmetic standards for produce, and to stop changing orders at the last moment. They should do all they can to stop pushing the waste problem onto the farmers who supply them.

I also want to convince Britain’s food industry that it should make strenuous and visible efforts to redistribute all their surplus good food to those who are in need.

And, if you visit the #wastenot website, I think you will too.

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