American films and television shows, as well as the fast food culture are threatening the survival of the British garden pea, says supermarket Tesco.

Correct use of a knife and fork is now seen by young children as old fashioned and uncool, making peas virtually impossible to eat at meal times, consumer research has revealed.

Said Tesco category manager Richard Stride: ‘Children now want finger food like burgers, chips and pizza, or food they can eat using just a fork. Having to use cutlery is seen as an unnecessary effort.

‘Youngsters can’t be bothered to chase peas around the plate. Rather than mastering the correct use of a knife, they simply leave peas uneaten on their plates.

‘At the moment we’re in danger of creating an entire generation who regard the British garden pea as a nuisance.’

So pronounced is the trend that Tesco has launched a research project to find new ways to make peas more appealing to young children.

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Alternatives include processing fresh peas into a food which can be eaten with a fork such as mushy peas, or even selecting larger pea varieties … grand pois rather than petit pois.

Fresh peas could also be served in an oriental style side bowl with a spoon for easier eating.

Said Richard Stride: ‘Peas are one of the few foods that can only be eaten comfortably using a knife and a fork, but many young children today aren’t familiar with this combination.

‘They see popular American TV characters eating using only a fork and can’t see any reason to act differently.

‘The fast food culture doesn’t help, because it encourages youngsters to eat using only their hand. As a result, using a knife and fork is in danger of falling out of fashion. It’s like being made to work on your handwriting when you know that you’re going to do all your writing on a computer.’

Tesco alone still sells more than 30,000 tones of frozen peas annually — but the research shows that most are bought to eaten by adults.

Sales of fork-friendly foods such as frozen brocolli, spinach, beans and cauliflower have not been affected.

Said Richard Stride: ‘The irony is that frozen peas are the ultimate fast food. They’re packed with nutrition because they’re frozen within 30 seconds of being picked in the field.

‘We want to act now to make sure that the traditional frozen British pea doesn’t become a period piece.