There are two trends when it comes to buying fruits and vegetables. The first is to go to the supermarket and stop in front of the shelf of the most beautiful piece; choose, among them, the one that stands out even more, for being bright and colorful. The second is to buy in neighborhood or organic stores, also in supermarkets, but without paying attention to the physical aspect of the food: what difference does it make if it is ugly, if it tastes good? Those belonging to the second group (the least) are actively involved in the fight against food waste, which according to the European Commission's Food Waste is estimated at almost 100 million tonnes a year in the EU (with a forecast of 120 million by 2020). Some supermarkets are also joining the battle.
Eat with your eyes. Eva Gosenje, nutritionist and member of the training commission of the Spanish Foundation of Dietitians-Nutritionists (FEDN), is clear about it: “We eat through our eyes, what enters us through our eyes. Choosing food just for the good looks has gotten out of hand, and today pijerío dominates a lot ”. Alma Palau, president of the General Council of Dietitians-Nutritionists of Spain (CGDNE) is of the same opinion: “We get carried away a lot by aesthetics”. To the point, he explains, that a project launched in some schools in Alicante to prevent ugly fruits and vegetables from going to waste, ended up being ruined. “We wanted to bet on a more sustainable diet and in several dining rooms we opted for organic vegetables and fruits, smaller pieces with less presence. The result was that, after a lot of time and effort, both the children and the parents complained, and in the end they demanded that the vegetables and fruits be all the same, in a perfect way ”. But experts insist: the appearance does not influence its nutritional quality.
The ‘ridiculous’ potato and the ‘failed’ lemon. In France, however, the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign has been a huge success. The Intermarché supermarket chain, with more than 1,800 stores, launched it a year ago to test whether consumers were willing to buy this type of food that was not impeccable at reduced prices (up to 30% discount). How imperfect? In the campaign video, Intermarché leaves no room for doubt. There parade The Grotesque Apple (the grotesque apple), The Disfigured Aubergine (disfigured eggplant), The Ugly Carrot (ugly carrot), The Failed Lemon (failed lemon), The Hideous Orange (horrible orange) and The Ridiculous Potato (ridiculous potato) . "These fruits and vegetables can be ugly, but they are as tasty as they are visually perfect," says Patrice de Villiers, photographer of the campaign.
The cheapest is thrown away.
The purpose of these actions is to avoid the unjustified waste of food. According to an OCU survey of 1,287 consumers, in 70% of households less than 5% of the food is thrown away, but in 14% of households more than 10% is thrown away, which means “a lot of food, with the consequent expense ”, according to the consumer organization. And what is the most thrown away? The cheapest, according to the study: fruits and vegetables (6%), bread and pastries (4%), meat and fish (3%) and processed foods (2%).
Whose responsibility is it?
From the chain through which the food passes, from its beginning to the consumer, according to the voices consulted. “Part of the fault is the consumer who does not want to buy fruits and vegetables with a brand; but also the farmer who makes a first selection discarding those that are not pretty because he knows that they are not going to buy them; then middlemen and supermarkets, who strive to present them as beautifully as possible using, for example, waxes on apples to make them shine more. And it is also necessary to promote awareness campaigns. They have always eaten the fruit that fell from the tree and then we go to the supermarket and buy the brightest one, ”criticizes Gosenje.
'Big bodies' and demanding consumers.
The spokeswoman for the Mercamadrid Fruit Wholesale Business Association, Susana Carrizosa, indicates that retailers “don't buy anything that looks bad because consumers require it. Fruit stores don't want anything that doesn't have a great body. In addition, it must be added that we Spaniards like large sizes. The Spanish consumer is very demanding, is trained in gastronomy issues, and does not want products that are not perfect ”.
What about the nutritional properties of an imperfect fruit or vegetable?
The answer in unanimous. "They are 100% edible and the properties are intact", admit the nutritionists associations. In fact, Mercamadrid, the large central market that supplies businesses in the capital, allocates all that merchandise that it discards because no buyer wants (despite having passed quality controls) to the Fundación Banco de Alimentos de Madrid, which distributed free of charge to different disadvantaged groups. Also, it is usually used to make jams, juices, baby food, yogurt or smoothies. As they claim in Intermarché, The ugly carrot: in a soup, who cares? o The failed lemon, from the same creator of the lemon.
Until when can they be eaten
Until when can we eat that strawberry with a mole without it having lost its properties? There are some basic signs that indicate it. The OCU has a manual for preferential consumption. As for fruits and vegetables, you have to watch out for these signs.
Dates. In winter, they can last approximately “from a week to 15 days; in summer, they are reduced to 3-4 days ”, according to Carrizosa.
- Color changes “If the color change is minor, nothing happens, it is ripe and the only thing that can happen is that it is somewhat more indigestible. But you have to be attentive to the moment in which the piece becomes very dark, because it is surely indicating that there are bacteria and, in that case, you cannot eat it, ”Palau says.
- Traces of bacteria and molds. They are easily distinguished, according to the nutritionist. "They are those areas between whitish with fluff and greenish, a sign that it is already bad."
- Texture. “You have to discard them when they are excessively soft, because it indicates that it is decomposing; a very clear example is in the banana ”, adds Palau.
- Odor. When the smell is very strong and acidic, according to the nutritionist, it is better to forget about eating it: it is a sign that it is no longer in condition.