Supermarkets selling seven-month old potatoes
Supermarkets duping customers by selling ‘new’ potatoes that are actually SEVEN MONTHS old
Investigation finds British new potatoes often harvested months ago
Campaigners now want supermarkets to adopt revised definition
Potato Council: ‘New potato should mean potatoes at their seasonal best’
By STEVE ROBSON
PUBLISHED: 12:12, 12 August 2013 | UPDATED: 14:57, 12 August 2013
Leading supermarkets are selling British new potatoes that can be up to seven months old.
An investigation by South Ayrshire Council in Scotland uncovered evidence that the big chains are misleading customers about the freshness of potatoes on sale.
The findings have led industry body the Potato Council to call on supermarkets to adopt a new definition of what constitutes a British new potato.
The probe was sparked by customer George Norris who complained to his local Trading Standards office that potatoes on sale as ‘new’ potatoes had been stored for prolonged periods after harvesting.
Investigators monitored the sale of ‘new’ potatoes from Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – between December 2012 and March this year and asked for planting and harvesting information. Aldi and Iceland did not respond.
In each of the 24 samples, the potatoes had been harvested four or five months previously.
One sample from Tesco had been harvested in August 2012 did not go on sale until March 2013, but were still described as new.
Council officers were also concerned that the way some loose potatoes were displayed within supermarkets could suggest to customers they had been freshly dug, when that was not the case.
They passed their concerns to the Potato Council, which confirmed there was not an agreed industry standard description of new potatoes.
The revised description defines a new potato as a one that has been specially grown and harvested early, packed full of taste, with a thin skin or one you can rub off with a finger.
Leading retailers are now being urged to adopt the new guidelines.
Today,Mr Norris told of his delight that the potato industry was taking action following his intervention.
He said: ‘I’m very pleased to be able to say that, following the initial verification that there could be a problem with selling stored potatoes as ‘new’, the council committed to a thorough investigation, which has had a positive outcome and I will follow any developments with interest.’
Caroline Evans from the Potato Council added: ‘New potato is a term that over-time has become short-hand for a small potato cooked in its skin, often boiled, baked or teamed.
‘To meet demand for quick and tasty potatoes, we have lost the seasonality.
‘Our description of a ‘new potato’ means customers know they’re enjoying potatoes at their seasonal best and if your supermarket adopts the description, you can be sure of what you’re buying.’
Today, Tesco said they would abide by the new standard and look at relabelling their Miniature New, Baby New and New 2.5kg products.
A spokesman said: ‘We are pleased to support The Potato Council’s new industry standard description of ‘new’ potatoes.
‘New or salad potatoes are popular with our customers all year round. We would love to be able to supply freshly lifted new potatoes year-round from UK growers but due to the nature of the growing season, this isn’t possible, so we use cold storage to ensure we can always meet customer demand.
‘We will be reviewing the labelling of three of our potato products to be sure we are giving the clearest possible information to our customers in line with the ‘new’ definition.’