The potato industry has established a standard definition of ‘new potatoes’ after an investigation by trading standards revealed that potatoes were being sold as ‘new’ for up to seven months after harvest.
South Ayrshire Trading Standards took samples of ‘new’ potatoes on sale at eight leading retailers and requested planting and harvesting information, following a complaint last year.
In each of the 24 samples from the six retailers who responded to questions, it found the potatoes had been harvested “quite some time” before going on sale, South Ayrshire Council said in a statement.
To give shoppers greater confidence in the new potatoes they’re buying, the Potato Council has drafted guidelines on what constitutes a ‘new potato’.
The guidelines state that they must be destined for consumer purchase soon after harvest, have an “immature thin or scraping skin” and be of “an appropriate variety”.
Over time, the seasonality of the British potato has been lost, which meant the industry was missing out on securing premiums for the crop, said Caroline Evans, head of marketing and corporate affairs at the Potato Council. “A refined description for ‘new potato’ means shoppers will know when they’re enjoying them at their seasonal best.”
The solution could be as simple as dropping the word ‘new’ when not in season and instead retailing packs of ‘baby potatoes’, Evans added.
When consumers bought new potatoes, they had an expectation the potatoes had been lifted out of the ground shortly before going on sale, said John McDowall, South Ayrshire Council’s portfolio holder for trading standards and environmental health issues. “It’s up to retailers – big and small – to adopt this standard to ensure customers are not misled.”
Blog: The new new potato