In its first report to UK Environment secretary Hilary Benn, the newly formed Council of Food Policy Advisors said that the government must give clearer guidance on how manufacturers can contribute to improving the sustainability of the UK food system.
It called on the government to set out an “overarching vision” for food, which identifies the roles of all players in the food chain and provides detail of what changes are expected, and how success will be measured.
“There is currently no cross-Government strategy for food; and this needs to be developed and responsibility for both the health and sustainability aspects identified,” said the report.
The Council said that the food industry should ensure that all boards have a member responsible for sustainability so that change can be driven and monitored.
The priority areas highlighted by the report include the need to define an environmentally sustainable diet, the need for the government to set an example via public procurement and the need for a strategy to increase UK production of fruit and vegetables.
Consumers must be provided with more information on the environmental and social impacts of their food purchases and said the government should design a sustainable diet based on evidence from health, economic and environmental sources, it says.
The provision of such information is already being mooted elsewhere in Europe. In Sweden, for instance, the draft guidelines for a healthy and sustainable diet are currently being circultated for comment.
The Council recommended that such a diet should be incorporated into the Food Standard Agency’s ‘eat well’ plate and should provide immediate, interim advice where possible.
The report is the first to be submitted by the Council of Food Policy Advisors, which was established in October 2008 to provide advice on a wide range of food policy issues.
Council chair Dame Suzi Leather said: “This report sets out some of the steps we believe will be helpful in securing our food supply in a changing world.
“This is a huge and complex agenda and these are just the early issues where we believe an impact could be felt quickly if the right action is taken. We look forward to monitoring progress on these actions as well at tackling some further challenges that we as a country face.”
The report has been welcomed by the government, which will now consider the Council’s recommendations.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: “The work of the Council of Food Policy Advisors will be important in helping to define what a sustainable healthy diet is for consumers.
“As we develop a long-term food strategy, I’m looking forward to hearing the Council’s views on a wide range of important issues, including how to equip people with the skills to succeed in the food industry.”