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December 11, 2009

UK: Less fish, meat, dairy key to “sustainable” supply – study

A tidal shift in UK consumption patterns is required in order to develop a sustainable food supply, a new report has suggested.

A tidal shift in UK consumption patterns is required in order to develop a sustainable food supply, a new report has suggested.

The report, compiled by the Sustainable Development Commission on behalf of the UK government, found that to make diets more sustainable, the country would need to cut its fish, meat and dairy consumption – and lower its intake of fatty and sugary foods and cutting food waste.

The report also highlighted a need to reduce usage of soy and palm oil in processed foods.

To date, attention has focused on improving the health profile of products and cutting food waste – with the government and industry largely side-stepping the issue of meat and dairy consumption.

Responding to the Setting the Table report, the Food and Drink Federation, which represents the UK food industry, emphasised the work already being done to reduce food waste and reformulate products.

“No one likes waste and that’s why the food and drink manufacturing sector is playing a leadership role in shaping the future of sustainable food production,” FDF director of communications Julian Hunt insisted. “Our Five-fold Environmental Ambition, which is now in its third year, is central to our activity in the waste reduction arena and we’ll continue to build on our successes so far.”

However, Hunt refrained from commenting on the report’s call to reduce fish, meat and dairy consumption.

The report also detailed a number of policy recommendations for the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Department of Health, including the formulation of more detailed criteria for sustainability guidance and the alignment of health advice with environmental aims.

The report has been warmly welcomed by environmental campaigners, with the WWF’s Mark Driscoll accusing the FSA of failing to “take sustainability seriously”.

“To date, the agency has failed to accept sustainability as a dietary issue: this is evident in its five-year plan, published a few days ago, which mentions sustainability just once. This attitude has to change – and quickly,” Driscoll, who heads up the WWF’s One Planet Food programme, said.

“We have tough targets to meet in terms of reducing the emissions from the UK’s food consumption. Much of these can be made through technological advancements and improved efficiency throughout the food chain. Yet there are also likely to be cuts required in consumption. These cuts could not only benefit the planet, but also the nation’s health.”

The FSA was unavailable for comment at time of press.

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