'New' potatoes could be seven months old

potato fields

An investigation by South Ayrshire Council has revealed that some 'new potatoes' that were on the shelves of supermarkets were actually up to seven months old. The investigation was prompted by a concerned shopper, who stumbled across British 'new potatoes' at a time of year when there was no chance that the potatoes were newly out of the ground.

So what was going on, and how can we have any faith that 'new potatoes' aren't elderly?

Old potatoes

The council was alerted to the issue by George Norris from Ayr, who complained to Trading Standards after coming across 'new potatoes', when there was no chance that they had been harvested recently. He had conducted his own research and discovered there was no legal definition of 'new potatoes'. He called on the authorities to produce one.

The council monitored the sale of new potatoes in eight local supermarkets between December 2012 and March 2013, and asked the retailers for planting and harvesting information. Of the six supermarkets that responded, the longest period between harvesting and sale was August 2012 to March 2013 - some seven months. The potatoes had simply been harvested and stored until sale.

It's a shocking state of affairs, which means we may well all have been forking out for 'new' potatoes that were anything but.


There is some good news, however. As a result of the investigation, the Potato Council has drafted new guidelines, which are under consultation, and lay out that new potatoes must be specifically grown and harvested early, with a thin skin or one you can rub off with a finger.

Councillor John McDowall, South Ayrshire Council's Portfolio Holder for trading standards and environmental health issues, said: "We hope the outcome of our investigation will ensure consumer confidence in what is one of the most basic items on our shopping lists. That's what this has been all about – the need for honesty and accuracy about the products we buy."

"When we buy new potatoes, we have an expectation that they will have been lifted out of the ground shortly before going on sale. With the introduction of the new industry standard description, we can all hope that we'll get exactly that when we buy new potatoes in the future."

Adopting the standard, unfortunately, will not be compulsory. As McDowall points out, it's up to the retailers to rebuild confidence by adopting them voluntarily. Tesco (where the seven-month-old potato had been on sale) told the Daily Mail it would follow the new guidelines and re-label its salad potatoes.

McDowall hopes all the supermarkets will follow suit, and that recent scandals over trust in supermarkets will persuade them to be completely honest about how long potatoes have been out of the ground.

But what do you think?

Seven of the craziest supermarket glitches
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'New' potatoes could be seven months old

One of the most popular glitches, was a wine deal at Tesco back in November 2012, where a series of offers clashed, leaving a bottle of £9.99 wine selling for £1.50.

The 'three wines for £10' deal apparently clashed with a '25% off when you buy six or more bottles' deal. The 25% was accidentally taken off the original price rather than the reduced one, leaving the wine at rock bottom prices. Deal-hunters cleared the shelves around the country.

Perhaps the most popular glitch from Tesco came in June 2011, when instead of taking £4 off the cost of a £20 case of beer, the supermarket accidentally started selling the cases for £4. The ensuring rush was nicknamed the 'beer stampede'.

Sadly not every supermarket pricing glitch comes with such a happy ending for consumers. In March last year the bargain-hunters thought their luck was in, when Tesco accidentally priced the new iPad at just £44.99 instead of around £650. Sadly it spotted the mistake before shipping the goods. The small print on its website meant it could refuse to sell at this price, and refund their customers instead.

In September 2012, Asda was responsible for one of the most expensive glitches. The Asda Price Guarantee offered vouchers to customers who could have got their shopping cheaper elsewhere.

However, when certain trigger products were in the basket, the supermarket massively under-priced the shopping at other supermarkets, and offered huge vouchers to shoppers. In many instances the vouchers came to roughly the same as the cost of the shopping.

In April, a mistake on their website resulted in Tesco selling 8 packs of Bulmers cider 568ml bottles for £5 - rather than a six pack for £8.

Deal-hunters snapped up the deal online, and had varying degrees of success. Some had their order delivered in full, others had six delivered for £5 - and were able to negotiate their way to another two, while others were offered six for £5 or their money back.

October last year saw one of the most famous glitches, when Tesco Terry's Chocolate Oranges were subject to two deals at the same time, and the price dropped from £2.75 to 29p. There were plenty of people getting chocolate oranges last Christmas.

A buy-one-get-one-free deal went awry at Tesco in March. People putting four tubs of I can't Believe It's Not Butter or Oykos yogurt packs into the trolley were only being charged for one.

Soon the online deal-hunting community was in action, with one person bagging 50 tubs of butter and 22 pots of yogurt for £8.79 - a saving of £133.89.


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