Blog: Dean BestRamsay isn't the only one fuelling the UK green debate

Dean Best | 14 May 2008

Given Gordon Ramsay’s recent comments on out-of-season food, it was rather apt that his blonde locks could be seen a few rows in front of me as I flew out of Edinburgh after yesterday’s (13 May) summit on sustainability and the food supply chain.

Late last week, one of the UK’s most celebrated chefs waded into a debate encompassing issues from support for local farmers to climate change and the environment.

An irritated Ramsay said UK restaurants should be banned from serving fruit and vegetables that are out of season, even advocating chefs being hit in the pocket.

And, as you’d expect, the whole debate over local food and food miles reared its head among the discussions at yesterday’s symposium on sustainability in the food supply.

The hosts, the Scottish arm of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation, attracted manufacturers, retailers, government officials and industry consultants to an event, which, at times, painted a rather bleak picture of the environmental challenges facing the planet.

The over-riding message was one of collaboration. All stakeholders, we were told, need to work together to promote a more sustainable food industry, given its importance to the UK economy and the contribution it makes on the country’s carbon emissions.

That said, there was still room for some tension. Waste disposal giant Biffa hit out at the UK government’s “schizoid” strategy on waste, while one food industry consultant asked Morrisons, the sole retailer on the panel, when UK grocers would get some “balls”, stop “dancing to the whims of consumers” and be more active in promoting sustainable consumption.

Morrisons, for its part, defended its strategy but its insistence that it was merely meeting consumer demand somewhat flew in the face of the collaborative tone of the discussions.

What’s more, it was disappointing not to hear from a single UK food manufacturer on how suppliers were embracing and leading the sustainability agenda. The FDF has been proactive in getting its members to think green – with some notable success – but it would have been interesting to hear first-hand from the likes of United Biscuits or McCain Foods about their moves on sustainability.


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