The Political Print: DEFRA’s Sustainable Consumption report

YOU MAY well have missed DEFRA’s “Sustainable Consumption Report”, such was the low-key way in which it was ushered into the public domain. No sooner had MPs loaded their Audis and decamped to the south of France for summer recess than the follow-up to the Green Food Project made its taciturn appearance, bereft even of an accompanying press release.


The fact that DEFRA officials aren’t keen to publicise the report suggests that at best they’ve got bigger things on their plate at the moment – most notably horses and badgers – and at worst are slightly embarrassed by its content, or lack thereof.


For keen students of government food policy there are few recommendations in the report that haven’t been espoused in previous government publications, most notably the “Food 2030” strategy of 2010 which was a far more coherent and, dare I say, visionary piece of work that showed the government of the day to be taking the issue of sustainable diets seriously.


The latest report aims to (re)stimulate debate about the roles that diet and consumption play in the sustainability of the whole food system and for this we should be thankful. But the ambition of the project is sadly lacking. At its core is an eight-point plan for healthy sustainable eating that ranges from the nebulous “Eat a varied balanced diet to maintain a healthy body weight” to the obvious “Eat fewer foods high in fat, sugar and salt” via the slightly more punchy “Moderate your meat consumption”, which as a piece of advice should at least stir up some debate should it be formalised.


Alas, there is little hint from DEFRA on how they plan to take forward this work, suggesting that sustainable diets are destined to remain on the periphery of policy for the foreseeable future.