Government must appoint food security coordinator

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

The report argues that waste food redistribution needs better coordination
The report argues that waste food redistribution needs better coordination

Related tags Nutrition Health

The government must appoint a food security coordinator to spearhead efforts to redistribute waste food to needy UK consumers, according to an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee report.

The Food security: demand, consumption and waste ​report​, published yesterday (January 22), states: “DEFRA​ [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] should set up a task force to co-ordinate national work by charities, local authorities, retailers, food producers and manufacturers to establish an effective food redistribution network across the country.

“This should be a key remit of a food security coordinator, who should also ensure that food and waste policies inter-link effectively.”

The report called for DEFRA to review with retailers the effectiveness of food labelling in conveying information about provenance and sustainability.

DEFRA should commission research into the veracity of sustainability claims made on food labels and use data from Public Health England to grasp more effectively how much purchased food is not eaten.

‘Retailers must be proactive’

“DEFRA should commission research to support improved labelling and retailers must be proactive in providing in-depth product information online and in-store,”​ said EFRA Committee chairwoman Anne McIntosh.

The Committee praised the work of the charity Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to reduce food waste and urged the government to support it with more cash. An estimated 9Mt of the UK’s annual 15Mt of food waste could have been eaten at some point, it said.

DEFRA funds for WRAP had plunged from £48.1M in 2010–2011 to £17.6M in 2014–2015 and were expected to fall to £15.5M from 2015–2016, the Committee pointed out.

In addition to ensuring waste food was more effectively channelled to deserving consumers, the government should do more to help shoppers identify and access locally sourced healthy food, the Committee claimed.

Fresh produce

Initiatives should include more work by DEFRA and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board to develop and widen markets for UK fresh produce, it stated.

The report pressed for greater integration of bodies promoting healthy eating, led by the Department of Health, and more online tools to help consumers identify the healthiest products.

“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,” ​said McIntosh.

‘Health problems’

Despite efforts to promote healthy eating, the UK is still experiencing high levels of health problems linked to poor diet, in particular over consumption.

“We need joined-up action across government and by local government and retailers to promote healthy food choices, which will deliver national economic and social benefits as well as improving individuals’ health​.”

The report also welcomed work by organisations such as Plan Zheroes to redistribute surplus food, but highlighted that of the 400,000t that was still edible when discarded, only 2% was redistributed.

For the complete report, click here​.

WRAP has announced the first year results of Phase 3 of the Courtauld Commitment. For more details, click here​.

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