Food and drink products should carry a ‘water footprint’ label, according to a joint report by two food and health groups in the UK.

The report, produced by the Food Ethics Council (FEC) and Sustain, lobbies the UK government for action on creating a label that details the hidden amounts of water used in manufacturing food and drink products.

“There are many factors to consider when assessing whether water has been used sustainably during a production process. They include the amount of water used, where it comes from, how its use affects the local ecosystem, what other uses water in that location is needed for, and how decisions are made about the water used,” the report said.

The groups recommend that a water stewardship labelling system would best address the “complex criteria” involved in judging water sustainability.

The report highlights that crops such as sugar and vegetables are more water-intensive than cereals, while meat and dairy is even more water-intensive.

“Our use of water to produce food becomes a critical issue when water is taken out of an ecosystem faster than the system can be replenished by natural processes,” the joint report said.

It also noted the government’s interest in the issue: “DEFRA is concerned by the high level of UK water dependency both for future UK food security and because of the pressure caused by UK imports on the water resources of other countries.”

A government report on food security out tomorrow, is expected to question the level of water dependency in the UK.

In April, Finland-based food group Raisio added a H2O label to its Elovena oat flakes, indicating the amount of water used in making the product.