Relief for British apple growers as Tesco relaxes its ‘blemish-free’ rules

Growers faced having to dump crop after low temperatures in April resulted in ‘frost ring’ on otherwise perfectly good fruit

British growers will be spared from being forced to dump hundreds of tons of apples after a supermarket relaxed its rules on “blemish-free” fruit

Growers faced the prospect of having to throw away apples from this autumn’s crop after an unseasonal frost caused unsightly blemishes on otherwise perfectly good fruit. The Bramley cooking apple crop has been particularly badly hit.

When temperatures dropped to -4C in April it caused a blemish known as “frost ring”, which leaves a mark around the circumference or large marks on the skin of the apples.

Under rules set by supermarkets about the look and quality of fruit and vegetables provided by suppliers, growers feared retailers would reject this year’s crop. Now Tesco has said it will relax the normally tight specifications on how fruit looks to ensure the crop goes on sale.

Growers said the move will mean that a variety of apples, including an estimated 300 tonnes of Bramleys, could now be sold by supermarkets. Under the existing rules, apples affected by frost ring would normally be excluded and growers forced to remove those with the defect.

John Worth, Tesco’s apple spokesman, said: “We’re working with our apple growers to use as much of the crop and prevent perfectly good fruit from going to waste. We work with our growers wherever we can and although some apples might be smaller or blemished, they will have the same great taste our customers expect.”

He said the slightly blemished apples would be sold as part of Tesco’s standard range, while more blemished fruit will be sold under its Perfectly Imperfect “wonky” fruit and vegetable branding.

Supermarkets have faced criticism for being too exacting in their rules about how fruit and vegetables look before being accepted for sale. Retailers argue the rules reflect customer tastes for blemish-free produce and claim there is little point in putting imperfect goods on sale only to throw them away unsold later.

Apple growers welcomed the move, saying the frost ring damage was largely superficial with a minimal effect on the flesh. A spokesman for the British Fruit Growers’ Association said retailers’ rules had a big impact on grower’s profits and praised Tesco’s stance.

Tesco recently said it would start publishing details of the amount of food waste it produced.

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