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The Friday Digest: The case for calorie (and carbon) labelling

In an eclectic round-up of the weeks’ news, we start with a development concerning plans by the Scottish government to introduce calorie labelling on menus. This week, Public Health Scotland published the results of a study into the perspectives of people with lived experience of eating disorders when eating outside of the home. The study wanted to better understand the potential impact of the proposal to introduce mandatory calorie labelling in out of home settings in Scotland, as is already required for large businesses in England. Overall, participants expressed negative views over forcing businesses to display calories on menus, signage and online with the availability of information seen as triggering for those with an eating disorder. UKHospitality Scotland called on the government to factor in the findings, alongside wider business concerns, and reconsider the policy.

To sustainable farming next and news that Tesco and NatWest have partnered to provide financial assistance for farmers who want to lower their environmental impact. The retailer and bank have launched a voluntary climate and sustainable finance scheme for 1,500 of Tesco’s farmers, providing them with preferential rates on finance to help them switch to sustainable farming methods. The programme has been designed with farmers’ input and will see members of Tesco’s sustainable farming groups for beef, lamb and dairy able to gain access to discounts offered on renewable energy assets such as solar panels, wind turbines, biomass boilers, LED lighting, battery storage and combined heat and power systems. “The initiative will provide our farmers with the confidence to invest in sustainable farming methods and infrastructure, while also helping us meet our target of reaching net-zero across our supply chain by 2050,” said Ashwin Prasad, Tesco group chief commercial officer.

Stepping away from the land for a moment, simplifying and speeding up the process for how novel foods, such as cultivated meats, are approved is a key priority for UK lawmakers as the government looks to design a regulatory system that can keep pace with market innovation. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) this week published a new joint consultation with Food Standards Scotland (FSS) which includes some initial proposals for streamlining the authorisation process for regulated products, such as food additives and flavourings, novel foods and GMOs, which require authorisation before they can be sold. The two specific proposals contained in the consultation are to remove the requirement for some products already authorised as safe to go through a reauthorisation process at fixed intervals of every 10 years, regardless of whether evidence on their safety changes; and to remove the requirement to lay legislation to authorise regulated products. FSA director of policy, Rachel Sudworth, said the two proposals could be delivered quickly to help streamline how the system works. This is just the start of a bigger plan to shake-up a regulatory system that was inherited from the EU with the FSA and FSS planning to bring forward further proposals for reform and modernisation in due course.

Barely a week goes by without the launch of a new carbon footprinting label or app in the foodservice sector. University College London (UCL), alongside its catering partner CH&CO, is the latest to join the party with the trial of a new food carbon tracking app that helps students manage their carbon impact. UCL is using the app developed by climate tech company Reewild to nudge students towards more sustainable options via a loyalty scheme that rewards them with free meals and coffees if they opt for greener options, in particular plant-based products. Through the app, students can also log the climate impact of the items they consume in their personal carbon footprint tracker with the aim to remain below a pre-set ‘carbon calorie goal’ – a daily carbon budget calculated in line with international climate targets. “Our ultimate goal is to have the customers’ first choice also be the most sustainable one on the menu and increasing engagement between our customers and the environmental impact of the food they eat is integral to that,” said Clare Clark, head of sustainability at CH&CO.

This week’s Footprint news also features coverage a trio of reports on chicken welfare, sustainable cocoa and global food waste. You can register for Footprint news and premium content via the website.