Supermarket clean-up 'is adding to waste of food'

Cabinet secretary for rural affairs Richard Lochhead admitted it might be a tough message for the supermarkets with their shelves full of thoroughly washed vegetables but he wondered if there was not a case for crops such as potatoes and roots to be presented in their natural state.

His rationale was that a great deal of effort now goes into educating consumers about where food comes from and yet they see little connection between earth-covered produce and the spotlessly clean vegetables currently on sale.

He also was very aware that a large percentage of crops grown for supermarkets do not meet the high standards set by these companies and end up either a stock feed for livestock or even just waste.

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In today's world, that loss of food was not acceptable, he suggested, and it was also totally contrary to the long-term aims of the zero waste strategy in Scotland which the major retailers had signed up to and where food waste was an important contributor.

He emphasised that his comments did not refer to quality standards of the produce, only to their presentation.

Giving an added edge to his remarks, the cabinet secretary was speaking at the Highland Show at the launch of a new scheme by leading retailer Marks & Spencer, where the target is to improve the sustainable practices of their suppliers.

Their agricultural manager, Steven McLean, responded to the gauntlet thrown down by the politician saying that it was customers who decided the standards set within the major retailers.

If any major operator stepped out of line on consumer demand, then they would be put at a competitive disadvantage, he stated.

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