The Food Ethics Council (FEC) and food and farming charity Sustain are jointly pressing government to co-ordinate work on a consolidated ethical food labelling scheme incorporating water stewardship.
The call came as the FEC published Water labels on food: issues and recommendations. This looks at current thinking on industrial water stewardship and the feasibility of devising a way of monitoring water use, similar to the Carbon Trust's system for measuring greenhouse gas emissions. The Alliance of Water Stewardship (AWS) is working on such a method and Nestlé called for an internationally agreed 'water footprint' measure last year (Food Manufacture, September 2008, p4).
"This information should go alongside other vital elements of sustainability, such as greenhouse gases, nutrition and fair trade so people can get a full picture of the impact of the food they buy," said Sustain co-ordinator Jeanette Longfield.
Longfield said implementing the report's implications was at an early stage and Sustain was awaiting feedback from industry and other stakeholder groups.
She didn't expect government to work out a system for measuring water use practices, she said, but she added: "Government is the place to knock heads together and get industry buy-in. Private companies can't do that, because they are competing with each other and NGOs [non-governmental organisations] can't do it, because they don't have two pennies to rub together."