Transforming #Food: All things considered – constraints, enablers, tensions and bold steps outlined in Food Ethics Council report

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New Food Ethics Council report published – it sets out the case for progressive action from the food and farming sectors. It also highlights how governments and food businesses should be held to account by citizens at the ballot box, in restaurants and in the supermarket aisles.

Geoff Tansey blog

Food-FEC-BF50

A new report by the Food Ethics Council – Food: All things considered – assesses the transformational changes needed to build fair and healthy food systems. It “provides a robust challenge to ‘business as usual’” said Justin King, former CEO of Sainsbury’s speaking about the changing face of food retail at the Council’s 50thBusiness Forum.

I’ve been a member of the Council since 2000 and we’ve been running these business forums since June 2007. I’ve chaired a few over the years, most recently the 49th on advertising.

The new report analyses the trends and tensions that have emerged over our 50 Business Forum meetings, and draws out the key levers that will drive transformational change. Liz Barling, our head of communications, summed up the three key changes as:

A radical shake up of how the market operates

Businesses in the UK and around the world…

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Poverty Alliance paper cautioning against the further entrenchment of foodbanks into Scotland’s welfare system

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Extract from Senscot’s weekly bulletin below:

“A recent parliamentary inquiry into hunger in the UK – called for an expansion of the food bank system – to be supplied by corporate food waste. A joint statement by Edinburgh and Glasgow city councils – boldly disagrees: “We believe that food waste is not an effective or socially just solution to food poverty.” A paper this week, from Scotland’s excellent Poverty Alliance, assembles research cautioning against the further entrenchment of foodbanks into Scotland’s welfare system.”

New report outlines the principles of healthy and sustainable diets

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03 June 2015 – published here.

Global Food Security, an alliance of the UK’s main public funders of food related research, has published a report highlighting 8 principles of healthy and sustainable eating patterns and concluded that pro-environmental diets were clearly compatible with healthy diets.

The eight principles are:

  • eat a varied balanced diet,
  • eat more plant based foods,
  • value your food and don’t waste it,
  • choose sustainable fish,
  • moderate your meat intake,
  • include milk and dairy products and where possible plant based alternatives,
  • drink tap water
  • eat fewer foods high in fat sugar and salt.

Supermarkets: end of an empire?

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“Listing all the potentially destructive or unethical features of this dominant food retail model would be a lengthy process. But in brief, supermarkets created a food monoculture in which most people buy and eat the same food across Britain. With their global, long-chain sourcing model, they undermined the age-old cycle of seasonal eating. They were the midwives of the ‘no-time-to-cook’ processed food revolution, which now looks to be a key driver of ill health and obesity. The supermarket business model works on a juggernaut of food miles, and has escalated food and packaging wastage to previously unthinkable levels. Supermarkets also denuded urban landscapes, blighted traditional high streets, put independents out of business all over the country, and bullied their way into communities while creating food deserts.”

Extract from Sustainable Food Trust article, found here.

Organic farming ‘benefits biodiversity’

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20 May 2015

Wheat field, France
Even a few organic fields on a farm may improve biodiversity, the study found

Organic farms act as a refuge for wild plants, offsetting the loss of biodiversity on conventional farms, a study suggests.

Fields around organic farms have more types of wild plants, providing benefits for wildlife, say scientists.

The research is likely to fuel the debate over the environmental benefits of organic farming.

Studies suggest that organic farming produces lower yields than conventional methods but harbours more wildlife.

The new study, by researchers at the University of Swansea and institutes in France, looked at fields sowed with winter wheat in the region of Poitou-Charente.

They found that organic farming led to higher weed diversity on surrounding conventionally farmed fields.

“Wild plants are important for birds, bees and other farmland species,” said Dr Luca Borger of the department of biosciences at Swansea University.

“Organic farming has advantages in maintaining these, but even a mixture of organic and non-organic farming in an area can help maintain this biodiversity.

“Even only 25% of fields being organically farmed can make a difference.”

Food security

Farmland provides essential habitat for many animals but intensification of agriculture has led to a loss of biodiversity.

However, in order to provide the extra food needed by the bigger human population of the future, without destroying forests and wetlands, farming needs to be made more intensive.

Supporters of organic farming say the method could be a potential compromise between meeting food security needs and providing habitat for bees, birds and other wildlife.

The researchers say land-sharing between organic farms and non-organic farms could have benefits for both crop production and biodiversity.

This theory needs to be tested in follow-up studies, they say.

The study is published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B- Biological Sciences.

France to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities

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Guardian article highlighting new tactic to tackle food waste in France – see original here.

Legislation barring stores from spoiling and throwing away food is aimed at tackling epidemic of waste alongside food poverty

 According to official estimates, the average French person throws out 20kg-30kg of food a year – 7kg of which is still in its wrapping.

The French national assembly voted unanimously to pass the legislation asFrance battles an epidemic of wasted food that has highlighted the divide between giant food firms and people who are struggling to eat.

Supermarkets will be barred from deliberately spoiling unsold food so it cannot be eaten. Those with a footprint of 4,305 sq ft (400 sq m) or more will have to sign contracts with charities by July next year or face penalties including fines of up to €75,000 (£53,000) or two years in jail.

“It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods,” said the Socialist deputy Guillaume Garot, a former food minister who proposed the bill.

In recent years, French media have highlighted how poor families, students, unemployed or homeless people often stealthily forage in supermarket bins at night to feed themselves, able to survive on edible products which had been thrown out just as their best-before dates approached.

But some supermarkets doused binned food in bleach to prevent potential food-poisoning by eating food from bins. Other supermarkets deliberately binned food in locked warehouses for collection by refuse trucks to stop scavengers.

The practice of foraging in supermarket bins is not without risk – some people picking through rotten fruit and rubbish to reach yoghurts, cheese platters or readymade pizzas have been stopped by police and faced criminal action for theft. In 2011, a 59-year-old father of six working for the minimum wage at a Monoprix supermarket in Marseille almost lost his job after a colleague called security when they saw him pick six melons and two lettuces out of a bin.

Pressure groups, recycling commandos and direct action foraging movements have been highlighting the issue of waste in France. Members of the Gars’pilleurs, an action group founded in Lyon, don gardening gloves to remove food from supermarket bins at night and redistribute it on the streets the next morning to raise awareness about waste, poverty and food distribution.

The group and four others issued a statement earlier this year warning that simply obliging supermarket giants to pass unsold food to charities could give a “false and dangerous idea of a magic solution” to food waste. They said it would create an illusion that supermarkets had done their bit, while failing to address the wider issue of overproduction in the food industry as well as the wastage in food distribution chains.

The law will also introduce an education programme about food waste in schools and businesses. It follows a measure in February to remove the best-before dates on fresh foods.

The measures are part of wider drive to halve the amount of food waste in France by 2025. According to official estimates, the average French person throws out 20kg-30kg of food a year – 7kg of which is still in its wrapping. The combined national cost of this is up to €20bn.

Of the 7.1m tonnes of food wasted in France each year, 67% is binned by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. Each year 1.3bn tonnes of food are wasted worldwide.

The Fédération du Commerce et de la Distribution, which represents big supermarkets, criticised the plan. “The law is wrong in both target and intent, given the big stores represent only 5% of food waste but have these new obligations,” said Jacques Creyssel, head of the organisation. “They are already the pre-eminent food donors, with more than 4,500 stores having signed agreements with aid groups.”

The logistics of the law must also not put an unfair burden on charities, with the unsold food given to them in a way that is ready to use, a parliamentary report has stipulated. It must not be up to charities to have to sift through the waste to set aside squashed fruit or food that had gone off. Supermarkets have said that charities must now also be properly equipped with fridges and trucks to be able to handle the food donations.

The French law goes further than the UK, where the government has a voluntary agreement with the grocery and retail sector to cut both food and packaging waste in the supply chain, but does not believe in mandatory targets.

A report earlier this year showed that in the UK, households threw away 7m tonnes of food in 2012, enough to fill London’s Wembley stadium nine times over. Avoidable household food waste in the UK is associated with 17m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.