Odd apples prison riot claim denied
Campaigners have defended the quality of under-sized and oddly-shaped apples after the prisons minister said serving them in jails could lead to riots.
The National Farmers' Union (NFU) insisted odd-shaped fruit and vegetables taste just as good, and cuts down on waste and makes economic sense.
The row came after prisons minister Crispin Blunt told MPs that serving under-size apples in jail canteens "will create issues of order and control".
Speaking at a Commons debate on prisons on Wednesday, Mr Blunt said: "An under-size apple handed out at the servery will create issues of order and control, so we use suppliers that are sensitive to that need and that use their sourcing ability to maintain consistency from their supply base.
"It is worth remembering that discontent about the quality of food, changes to menus, and failure to deliver what was previously promised have been known to be the catalyst for serious disturbances.
"As well as being a key issue in control, food demonstrably contributes to prisoners' overall well-being."
He went on: "Prisons aim to provide food that is nutritious, well-prepared and served, reasonably varied and sufficient in quantity and that also meets a range of religious and cultural needs. Inadequate portion sizes, lack of variety and poorly cooked food can contribute to serious complaints and dissension.
"Providing prisoners with the opportunity to choose a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet, with enough knowledge to make informed choices, is important because prisoners can be in custody for long periods and are largely dependent on prison food."
But the NFU's chief horticulture adviser Philip Hudson said: "Fruit and vegetables come in all shapes and sizes and farmers and growers work extremely hard to produce fresh, quality food.
"The NFU supports the sale and purchase of odd-shaped fruit and veg. It tastes just as good, eliminates waste and makes economic sense, particularly during this time of global financial uncertainty and increased importance of food security."