Food transport miles in the UK rose last year on three key measures, according to government figures.

The UK government uses four indicators to measure the environmental and social impact of food transport on the country; urban food kilometres, HGV food kilometres, air food kilometres and CO2 emissions.

Figures released yesterday (25 October) by the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) showed that food transport miles rose on three of the four indicators in 2006. Only HGV food kilometers declined, falling 3%, indicating the success of food transport initiatives by UK food manufacturers and retailers.

"The statistics released today will help to inform our view on the impact of food transportation," said Jeff Rooker, Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming. "However, transportation is just one element in the food production chain. Food miles alone are an incomplete way of judging whether the food we eat is sustainable."

Urban food kilometres rose by 7%, driven by a 9% increase in UK car shopping, DEFRA said. Carbon dioxide emissions from overseas and UK food transport for UK consumption rose by 5%, primarily due to an increase in air kilometers, which rose faster in 2006 than in preceding years.

Data showing the increase in air kilometres came just a day after the Soil Association, the monitoring body for the organic sector in the UK, decided against banning air-freighted goods from receiving organic accreditation.