Government to tackle sustainable diets

THE FOODSERVICE sector has a “major role” to play in influencing consumer choice and shifting people to more sustainable, healthier diets.


New government project also commits to debate on GM


That’s according to a new government study into the UK’s food system.


The report is the first piece of work from the Government’s Green Food Project, which has been tasked with making “the whole food chain as sustainable as possible”.


The Project’s steering group produced 37 pages of recommendations on how the food system needs to change in order to keep food affordable whilst considering the natural environment.


The role of industry in influencing consumer behaviour and encouraging more sustainable food choices features heavily in the report, and there is a commitment to set up a ‘consumption forum’ to drive discussions around sustainable diets.


As part of this, The British Hospitality Association will convene a “forum of leading members from across the hospitality and foodservice sector, working with the sector colleges, to develop an approach to promote skills and professionalism in sustainable consumption”.


As well as the consumption forums, the Project’s steering group will also manage an industry-wide debate on new technologies, including genetically modified (GM) foods. There are also commitments on food waste and a drive to encourage knowledge exchange and ensure the industry keeps its best talent.


“With our increasingly hungry world every country must play its part to produce more food and improve the environment,” said Farming Minister Jim Paice at the report’s launch. “Britain already punches above its weight, but we’re a small island with limited space, so we’ve got to show leadership and play to our strengths more efficiently.??


“We’re not talking about setting Soviet-style targets but an overall approach in which the whole food chain pulls together. Whether it means embracing new farming technology or people wasting less, we’ve got to become more sustainable.”


The Green Food Project examined how production and consumption could change in the future in five different sectors – wheat, dairy, bread, curry, and geographical areas. The ‘curry subgroup, led by Sodexo, included an experiment to change the contents of a meat curry to include less meat and use sustainable ingredients, whilst maintain the taste and ‘fullness’ of the dish. The group concluded that “retailers and the foodservice sector in particular can lead the shift to reformulated healthy, lower impact products/meals, and using more UK-produced ingredients as part of dishes”.


Some will see this as government shying away from the controversial issue of eating less meat, however.


The environmental impact of livestock production has been well-documented. WWF-UK’s food lead Mark Driscoll warned that the new forum “has to be more than a talking shop”.


He said: “The establishment of a consumption forum is a useful initiative, but [it] must report back with clear recommendations and a timetable for action from government, business and civil society.”


According to the Green Food Project’s steering group, a “scoping discussion will take place within three months to maintain momentum”.


For more on sustainable diets, see July’s Foodservice Footprint out now.