What Makes Produce "Ugly"?

June 17, 2019

Each year in Canada, nearly 25 million pounds of fruit and vegetables are thrown out before it ever reaches grocery store shelves or other distributors. So, what’s the difference between the produce on grocery store shelves and the produce thrown out that’s deemed unsellable? Simply put, it all comes down to aesthetics.

Food discrimination is a real thing! Sounds kind of crazy, right? We live in a society which values perfection and visually pleasing aesthetics. If produce is bruised, or misshapen, it gets tossed out. If a cucumber is too curved, it’s considered ugly. If an asparagus stalk isn’t at least 80% green, in the trash it goes. In fact, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has some pretty strict rules for the fruit and vegetables that end up on store shelves. For example, check out the requirements for a carrot to be considered allowed to sell in a grocery store:

 “Carrots may not be rough, materially misshapen, or materially affected by secondary rootlets … sharp curves, double corkscrew like twists and curves … are scoreable.”

That’s straight from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website. And what exactly is wrong with the produce that is trashed before it ever sees the light of day? Other than its “ugly” appearance, not a thing! It’s just as tasty and nutritious as all the “pretty” looking produce being stocked on the shelves!

 Credit:  @uglyfruitandveg

Credit: @uglyfruitandveg

More recently though, in an effort to combat food waste, some companies and non-profits have been popping up, taking on these supposedly “ugly” fruit and vegetables, and selling them at a discount. Loblaw even started a new campaign around this, and began selling a line of the rejected produce at select stores in Ontario and Quebec, and named the line of produce “No Name Naturally Imperfect”. 


At Flashfood, we're also looking at tackling this problem. If you're interested in joining in on the fight against "ugly" produce food waste - sign up here to get notified on our progress.

 Credit:  @uglyfruitandveg

Credit: @uglyfruitandveg


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