Opinion

Sustainable and healthy food systems needed

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Sustainable and healthy food systems needed
Some of the world’s biggest food manufacturers and retailers have agreed to simplify food date labels by 2020 in an attempt to reduce the vast quantities of food that is unnecessarily wasted each year.

Many consumers are – not surprisingly – baffled by the variety of labels that currently exist. They confuse food safety labels, such as ‘use-by’ dates, with ‘best-before’ quality labels.

And, if that wasn’t bad enough, date labels aimed at retailers – such as ‘‘display until’ and sell by’ – only add to the confusion.

It’s equally not surprising then, that so much perfectly good food gets binned without good reason.

Simplify labelling

Against this backdrop, the initiative agreed by the Consumer Goods Forum board last month in New York, which commited companies such as Tesco, Kellogg, Walmart, Campbell Soup, Bimbo, Pick n Pay, Nestlé, Carrefour and Unilever to simplify labelling by 2020, is most welcome.

But, important as this move is, the need for more sustainable global food production systems is a far more thorny problem.

It requires tough political choices to be made to address the ‘perfect storm’ of food and water shortages, linked to climate change, and insufficient energy sources.

Growing world obesity problem

Add to this the growing world obesity problem, and we really do have a recipe for disaster.

Reading University’s Professor Christine Williams succinctly summed it up last month with the remark: “We have been converting fossil fuel into adipose tissue for the past 40 years.”

Williams called for more interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists to create healthier, more sustainable food systems.

While it’s a very noble ambition, it is one that will require much bolder action from our political leaders – which is currently in short supply.

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