Both food retailers and the government must work to encourage sustainable food consumption and cut down on waste if the UK is to have a sustainable food supply in the face of environmental and health challenges, according to MPs.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, argues that government, the third sector and retailers should be deployed to influence and support consumer behaviours to help policy objectives, such as buying more British products.
Chair of the committee, Anne McIntosh MP commented, “With the impacts of climate change and rising world populations putting increasing pressure on food supplies, ensuring everyone can access affordable, healthy food presents a growing challenge for the UK.
“The myriad choices millions of people make every day on what food to buy and where to buy it from must be harnessed to support national food policy goals, not through increased regulation but through better information from retailers and central and local government.”
The MPs note two barriers the UK faces today, the first is a “health crisis” linked to poor nutrition. The report notes that adults are eating 50% more saturated fat and children eat 50% more sugar than recommended levels. As a result, the MPs recommend that the food industry provide better consumer information to help people choose healthier diets.
The second is food waste, a topic that has hit headlines over the last year. In the UK it is estimated that 40% of food never arrives in shops because of its ‘ugliness’ despite being edible. Globally it is thought that up to half of the food produced is never eaten.
McIntosh added, “Nine million tonnes of avoidable food waste goes into bins each year, yet a considerable proportion is fit for consumption when it’s discarded: this level of waste is unacceptable economically, socially and environmentally.”
She added that the government should set up a task force to co-ordinate national work to cut food waste by charities, councils, retailers, food producers and manufacturers in order to establish an effective redistribution network across the country.
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