A recent study from the University of Edinburgh has found that more than a third of farmed fruit and vegetables never make it to the supermarket shelves because they are the wrong shape or size.

Over 50 million tonnes of fruit and veg grown across Europe is discarded each year, largely because of their outward appearance. The study, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, looked into food waste across Europe and particularly examined how much food was thrown away before it even reached the supermarket.

So why is so much food thrown away? The researchers at Edinburgh attributed the waste to strict government regulations, high standards at supermarkets and, ultimately, customer expectations of how fruit and veg should look. The problem stretched all the way back to farms too – farmers explained to the researchers that they regularly grow more produce than they are contracted to supply to allow for a proportion that would not be deemed good enough to sell.

Food production is a very energy and water-intensive process and many consumers see the levels of food waste as unacceptable in today’s environmentally conscious world. Compounding the environmental aspects, food banks have never been so essential in Britain, and there are movements in the UK to reclaim misshapen veg and turn it into delicious food. But how can we solve this problem on a large scale?

In recent years UK supermarkets have been trialling ‘wonky veg’ boxes and many institutions have been encouraging consumers to be less picky about how their fruit and vegetables look. These methods have been relatively popular but consumers have still shown some trepidation to ‘weird’ looking fruit and veg.

Consumers are often very hesitant towards change, and generally want their food to look the same week to week. Whilst this isn’t possible with unprocessed ‘wonky’ fruit and veg, increasingly consumers are buying pre-prepared fruits and vegetables for their reliability, ease of use and uniformity. Pre-prepared fruits and vegetables have the added bonus of reducing waste at home too, as one of the leading causes of food waste in the home is reluctance to prepare food that is close to expiry. Food production companies across the country are increasingly turning to equipment such as M&P’s Freshcut Machinery to take misshapen or small veg and turn it into batons, slices or wedges, reducing waste and reducing preparation time for busy consumers.

M&P Engineering is a leading manufacturer and supplier of food processing equipment based in Manchester, UK with offices in Michigan, USA. M&P Engineering offers a range of food processing equipment including its onion peeling machine, food depositors and freshcut machinery. With over 50 years of experience in designing and manufacturing food processing machinery, M&P Engineering has become well established as the leading onion processing equipment manufacturer.

M&P’s latest innovation is the carousel grid cutting machine. A versatile piece of freshcut machinery, the carousel grid cutting machine can produce up to 4,800 pieces per hour in the form of fries, batons, wedges, petals and slices. It features a simple, fast changeover of tools and 24 centring pockets for fast, efficient cutting.

If you would like more information about any of M&P Engineering’s food processing equipment, speak to a member of the team on +44 (0)161 872 8378 or contact us here.