Ministers to dine on 'ugly' produce

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vegEnvironment ministers from around the world are being fed a banquet made from food rejected by UK and European supermarkets, to raise the issue of food waste.

Vegetables grown by farmers in Kenya, but rejected as "ugly" or unwanted, will be fed to ministers, diplomats and United Nations delegates at an official dinner in the African country's capital Nairobi.

The meal is being organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and campaigners Feeding the 5,000, as part of efforts to dramatically cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year.

Campaigner and founder of Feeding the 5,000 Tristram Stuart visited farms and packhouses in Kenya to source more than 1.7 tonnes of unwanted fruit and vegetables and donate to local charities.

The food had been grown for the export market, which serves supermarkets in countries such as the UK, but had been rejected, mainly due to not meeting standards relating to their appearance or orders being changed after harvesting.

Some of the unwanted produce is sold in local markets or donated, but supply outstrips demand and much of it is left to rot or fed to livestock, with the costs borne by Kenyan farmers, the campaigners said.

The rejected food will be used to cook a five course meal, which will include grilled sweet corn tamales, yellow lentil dal with tamarind and mangomisu, which is described as "tiramisu with a tropical twist".

Mr Stuart said it was a "scandal" that so much food was wasted in Kenya, where millions of people went hungry. "We found one grower supplying a UK supermarket who is forced to waste up to 40 tonnes of vegetables every week, which is 40% of what he grows. The waste of perfectly edible 'ugly' vegetables is endemic in our food production systems and symbolises our negligence."

The dinner comes after the launch by UNEP and other organisations of a campaign to urge consumers and retailers to take simple actions to help reduce the £600 billion worth of food which is lost or wasted around the world each year.

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said: "No economic, environmental or ethical argument can be made to justify the extent of food waste and loss currently happening in the world, and at UNEP we practise what we preach. With this dinner we are demonstrating to retailers, consumers and policymakers who can push for change that the astonishing amount of food we throw away is not just edible and nutritious, but also delicious."

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