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UK misled over 'freshness' of fresh veg?

5th March 2010 Print

As the Government reveals that more of us are achieving our 5-a-day, a new study from Birds Eye Field Fresh shows that the majority of the UK believes fresh vegetables to be fresher than they actually are and contain more nutrients than the reality.

Consumers significantly underestimate the amount of vitamins and nutrients lost between the field and the fork, meaning that although more of us may be achieving our 5-a-day, we may not be reaping the full nutritional benefits.

• 84% of people in the UK eat vegetables because they believe them to be nutritious and healthy

But . . .

• 96% believe fresh vegetables are fresher than they actually are
• Fresh vegetables can lose up to 45% of their nutrients by the time we eat them
• 85% are completely unaware of the deterioration that occurs in fresh vegetables
• 50% of people eat fresh vegetables after their use-by date, missing out on much of its nutritional benefit
• Most fresh vegetables are bought unpackaged, with no use by dates or any measure of how fresh they are

The trouble with Fresh
According to the study, carried out for Birds Eye Field Fresh, by IFR Extra, 80% of us believe many of the fresh vegetables sold on supermarket shelves are less than four days old when, in reality, they can be up to nine days old when they arrive, and remain on-shelf for up to four days. This, combined with extended home storage periods (two-three days on average), means that by the time we eat our fresh veg, it can be up to 16 days since it was picked from the field, dramatically decreasing its nutritional value. Whilst people are eating their 5 a day in the belief that they are reaping the full nutritional benefits, the majority are eating vegetables with significantly less nutrients than they realise. Fresh green beans can have lost up to 45% of their nutrients by the time it comes to cooking, with broccoli and cauliflower losing up to 25%, garden peas and sweetcorn up to 15%, and carrots up to 10%.

Frozen over fresh
Because Birds Eye’s Field Fresh Vegetables are picked and frozen within hours, which only Birds Eye guarantee, they retain more vitamins, freshness and taste that can be lost in fresh vegetables between farm, supermarket, home and plate. Birds Eye’s Field Fresh Garden Peas contain up to 30% more Vitamin C than their fresh equivalents, and Field Fresh Green Beans contain up to 45% more than fresh.

Andy Stark, Head of R&D & Vegetable Category at Birds Eye, said:

“What this research tells us is that significant confusion exists over the nutritional content of fresh and frozen veg. Whilst many people now understand the benefits of frozen in terms of wastage, lower cost and convenience, very few are aware that frozen can also win on nutritional value. Birds Eye Field Fresh Vegetables not only provide a tasty alternative to fresh, they’re picked and frozen within hours to retain more vitamins.”

Nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker said:

“The nutritional content of fresh vegetables begins to deteriorate from the minute they are picked. This means that by the time they end up on our plate, although we may think we’re reaping the vegetable’s full nutritional benefits, this is often not the case. With frozen vegetables, where vitamins are locked in at the point of freezing, there's no need to worry about how nutritious they are”.

The Birds Eye Field Fresh range includes Birds Eye’s ever-popular Garden Peas, Petits Pois and Steam Bags, as well as new Supersweet Sweetcorn, Very Fine Green Beans, Country Mix and Select Mixed Vegetables. Each pack has the ‘Field Fresh Guarantee’ that it’s been picked and frozen within hours to retain more vitamins and offer great quality, taste and freshness.

* The opinions expressed by IFR Extra do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of Food Research.