Tag: sustainability

Government Food Strategy – Feedback’s response.

15th Jun 22 by Various

The government is failing to take necessary action to improve our children’s health, regenerate our natural world and tackle climate change

Along with many other civil society groups working in the progressive food and farming, we at Feedback are deeply disappointed by the lack of ambition in the new Government Food Strategy, and dismayed and angry that the government is failing to take the necessary action to improve our children’s health, regenerate our natural world and abate greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are the reactions to the strategy from our experts in different policy areas.

Martin Bowman, Feedback’s Food Waste expert

Three and half years after it was promised in the 2018 Waste and Resources Strategy, the government has finally released a consultation on introducing mandatory food waste reporting for larger food businesses. Any further delay or dilution will seriously jeopardise the UK’s ability to meet Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve food waste by 2030. We now urge the government to implement ambitious mandatory farm-to-fork food waste reporting as soon as possible and we invite businesses and civil society to join us.

Firstly, the government must hold firm to its commitment to introduce mandatory reporting; we are extremely concerned to see a weaker alternative proposed to “enhance current voluntary agreements”, when a decade of experience shows that voluntary reporting hasn’t worked.

Secondly, the government must ensure food wasted on farms is within scope of the mandatory reporting. Farms are currently excluded from the UK’s food waste reduction targets due to lack of data. Until this is fixed, waste will continue and farmers will suffer in silence.

Thirdly, the government must not futher delay businesses reporting their food waste another three years until 2025 – businesses who already have access to this data should report immediately in 2023, and all other businesses should report by 2024.

Finally, medium-sized businesses must be included within measurement as otherwise most businesses in the farm and catering sectors will be excluded from scope.

Not only that, in the same Waste and Resources Strategy of 2018, the government also promised a consultation on introducing mandatory food waste reduction targets. This promise didn’t make it into the Government Food Strategy and the government has instead indicated to us that this won’t happen until a few years after mandatory reporting is up and running. This means food waste reduction targets could arrive in 2027 or 2028 at the earliest, if at all. Shockingly, this is nearly a decade after the government promised action, and leaves only a few years before 2030, when the UK is meant to have met the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve food waste. We urge the government to introduce mandatory food waste reduction targets for food businesses alongside the mandatory food waste reporting.

Krysia Woroniecka, Feedback’s Sugar expert

Instead of making a meaningful contribution to solving our health and environmental crises, the Government Food Strategy makes out that we have largely arrived at where we need to get to: celebrating high self-sufficiency in processed food and animal products, previous (and largely failed) healthy eating programmes and the charitable actions of food manufacturers. Indeed, with no trace of irony, the paper goes as far as to praising the Weston Foundation as one of several (along with the Rowntree and Cadbury Foundation) that have made contributions to communities and diets. However, it fails to mention that the foundation makes its money, amongst other dubious sources, from the UK’s oversupply of sugar through its ownership of sole beet processor, British Sugar.

The white paper admits that the voluntary sugar reduction programme has had mixed progress, at best. Yet it proposes no new solutions and does nothing to address the availability of sugar in the UK; currently three times the maximum safe consumption level for the nation.

Despite the statistic that 40% of children are overweight or obese, the white paper implies that sugar reduction has largely already been dealt with via the soft drinks levy and voluntary sugar reduction program.

In short, the strategy misses the point entirely on sugar and this lack of action to improve our children’s health is truly shameful.

Lucy Antal, Feedback Food Justice expert

Rather than committing to doing something about the fact we now have 31% of all children living in poverty, this paper fails to support an additional 1.5 million children with free school meals as recommended by Henry Dimbleby. Very little is offered beyond the already existing Holidays Activities and Food (HAF) programme, which is itself underfunded, and the Healthy Start scheme, which, following digitalisation, is now failing to reach eligible families. Instead, the status quo of eligibility based on households earning less than £7,400 a year remains.

The opportunity to create those much vaunted Levelling Up options is missed. The consultation emphasised the importance of giving all the public equal access to affordable healthy food. That’s been pushed off to the Health Disparities paper due who knows when? Moreover, the onus is once again placed on individual choice and education, rather than addressing the issues of availability. Perhaps the concept of living in a food desert (as some 77% of residents of one area of Merseyside do) is an alien one. But it is a real problem for too many.

There’s one mention of hunger in this paper and that’s in relation to food aid overseas. It may be unpalatable to those in government to think about hunger in relation to their own citizens, but with an increase of 81% in people regularly accessing food aid in five years and over 7.1 million admitting to skipping a meal because they cannot afford to eat, the stark reality is, our citizens are hungry and those numbers will only increase as the cost of living (or surviving) continues to grow.

Lia ní Aodha, Feedback’s fisheries and aquaculture expert

On most topics, the Government Food Strategy omitted Henry Dimbleby’s recommendations. Aquaculture, on the other hand, wasn’t mentioned at all in the Dimbleby report, but features in the final strategy in the form of an absurd nod to farmed fish as part of the solution to protein with lower environmental impact. Well, this is what one is left to imagine the Government has in mind when it wrongly states innovation in aquaculture will help boost production in the seafood sector without adding pressure on fish stocks. As with the rest of the report, however, details are scant (while technofixes abound), and we can only read between the lines and assume what is meant here is farming more carnivorous fish – the ones that eat fish which could have nourished people instead.

Farmed salmon is, of course, the UK’s largest seafood export by value, destined for high-end markets around the world. Given farmed salmon’s continued dependence on wild fish for feed, one would be hard-pressed to find a more illogical “longer-term” measure, as espoused in the leaked document, “to support a resilient, healthier, and more sustainable food system that is affordable to all.” Our research at Feedback indicates farming salmon reliant on wild fish for feed is a highly inefficient way to produce seafood, both in terms of wild fish populations and human nutrition. The last publicly available figures indicate the production of 179,000 tonnes of Scottish Atlantic salmon required 460,000 t of wild-caught fish. Almost 80 per cent of these could have been eaten by humans instead. Eat more fish, they say, it’s an important source of micronutrients. Most (more than half, in some cases up to 99 per cent) of the valuable micronutrients available in ‘feed fish’ (e.g., sardines, herrings, sprats) are lost when fed to farmed salmon! Meanwhile, Britain exports most of the sardines caught off its coasts to be sold on the continent.

While the government recognises, UK has- for now at least- a high degree of food security, p populations along the coasts of West Africa, where small oily fish to feed the growing fish farming industry are oftens caught, are not so lucky. Perhaps the Government truly believe that, rather than an excellent example of the deep inequities in the global food system, farming fish like salmon is a way of addressing global food insecurity. Let them eat fish? Time to start exporting Scottish salmon to West Africa, a region currently facing its worst food crisis in a decade? After all, harnessing export opportunities and supporting the (big) agri-food industry appears to be the core objective of the strategy, apparently regardless of the principles set out in the 2020 Fisheries Act.

Natasha Hurley, Feedback’s meat expert

It’s frankly astonishing that the Government Food Strategy fails to tackle meat production and consumption in the UK, against the recommendations of its own expert advisers.

As Henry Dimbleby’s report made clear, our current appetite for meat is unsustainable: more than three-quarters of UK land under food production is used to graze livestock or produce crops to feed to animals. The Government’s own Climate Change Committee has advised we must reduce the amount of meat we eat by 50% in order for the UK to reach net zero targets and to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis.

Livestock is already responsible for about 14.5% of the total anthropogenic emissions and, if current trends continue, the global livestock industry will be using up almost half the world’s 1.5°C emissions budget by 2030 – meaning that urgently restricting and reversing the growth of the livestock sector will be essential to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis.

The government has many tools at its disposal to drive the shift towards low-carbon diets, including regulation, planning for factory farms and public procurement. It has chosen not to deploy any of these. The strategy was an extraordinary opportunity for climate leadership from the government, instead, it is marching us towards climate chaos.

The climate case for reducing meat is unequivocal: the failure of the government to take any action to support meat reduction is a shocking abdication of its climate responsibilities. The ambitious reduction targets set last year to great fanfare will not be met, and tragically, the government appears remarkably unfussed.

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Can we have our farmed salmon and eat it too?

3rd Oct 19 by Christina O'Sullivan

Read our latest blog on the Food Climate Research Network. 

Read our blog on the Food Climate Research Network.

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Will the supermarkets Meat Us Halfway on meat?

13th Aug 19 by Phil Holtam, report author

Find out how the supermarkets performed in our 'less and better' meat scorecard.

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report detailing the evidence for major and sweeping changes to our agriculture and land use, including shifts to more sustainable diets in places (like the UK) where meat and dairy consumption is already too high. We published our first response last week, looking at how Feedback thinks policy-makers should be responding to this challenge.

But what about some of the Big Food businesses with the greatest power in our food system? Yes, you guessed it, supermarkets.

Supermarkets, as the main provider of groceries for the majority of UK households, have a vital role to play for this dietary change to happen. So we’ve been looking into the biggest ten UK supermarkets and assessed their efforts at both the corporate and store level to support the public in shifting to sustainable and healthy diets. And we’ve found that, whilst there are signs of progress for some stores, most of them have a long way to go.

What did we base our assessment on?

Our scorecard uses two sets of indicators. The first set looks at publicly available information on corporate policies and commitments around sustainable animal feed, deforestation, and science-based climate change targets and reporting. This would include ensuring the climate impact of supply chains is fully recognised in supermarket operations, and a commitment to promoting consumption of healthy, plant-based foods, with a named champion within the business holding this responsibility. We’ve also used existing publicly available data into our scorecard from organisations such as FAIRR, the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Food Foundation.

The second set of indicators looks at the in-store experience, assessed via ‘mystery shopper’ visits to a small sample of stores. Here we were looking for, among other things, a strong offering of ‘better meat’ (i.e. meat which is RSPCA assured, free-range, or organic), prominent shelf position of meat-free proteins, clear guidance on healthy and sustainable meat consumption, and labels that refrain from mis-leading marketing, such as ‘fake farm’ brands. We also drew on Eating Better’s assessments of the proportion of ready meals, sandwiches and salads which are meat-free.

Using these indicators we looked at the major 10 supermarkets and awarded points based on 24 different criteria regarding their progress in shifting their offerings away from meat, as well as looking at the quality of the produce they do sell.

How did your supermarket do in our scorecard?

















We found that across the high street there is a real difference in the efforts retailers are making to respond to the climatic need for different food on our plates. Coming in at the bottom of our ranking, on a score of only 14%, was Iceland.

Despite recent moves to ban plastics in store, as well as their high-profile work on palm oil, Iceland lost points due to being one of just two retailers with no publicly available corporate policy on sustainable animal feed, and for being the only retailer not to have publicly signed up to the Cerrado Manifesto, which supports a halt to deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado savannah. Despite having some vegan foods on offer, Iceland has the lowest proportion of vegetarian ready meals of any retailer, at just 7% , and their fresh meat offer consists of products meeting only the regulatory minimum, without any provision of ‘better’ meat, such as free range or RSPCA assured. Iceland has a long way to go towards ‘less and better’ meat, but so do fellow low rankers Morrisons, ASDA and Aldi.

Those at the top of the ranking shouldn’t feel complacent though – we’re still not seeing the sort of radical and brave commitments to selling less meat (and more ‘better’ meat) which will be needed for real change.

A recent Eating Better/YouGov poll found increasingly demand for plant-based foods with more people than ever before identifying as vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian. Of course these figures have their geographical and generational nuances, with younger urban-dwellers more likely to avoid meat, but the trend is clear; the UK public is ready for a dietary shift.

It’s time the supermarkets went beyond following the demand and meat us halfway.

By giving customers access to better quality meat and dairy produce, as well as offering meat-alternatives to help people reduce their meat and dairy consumption, they could make a real difference. Ultimately we think any supermarket which is serious about shouldering their responsibility for the impact of the food system on our planet will commit to halving their meat sales by 2030 overall, and stocking a higher proportion of high quality meat, such as year round pasture-fed.

Read the full scorecard.

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a Week at Feedback

15th Jul 19 by Ella Jarvis, Feedback Work Experience

A week in the life of Feedback work experience: Ella Jarvis reflects on her time in the office.

Ella Jarvis spent a week on work experience at Feedback, she reflects on her time working with the Feedback team.

Before my time at Feedback I had some knowledge on the devastating effects that climate change is having on our planet, due to my study of A level Geography. However, I had little knowledge on how our current food system has been a major factor that has driven these changes. Through my work experience I have gained so much knowledge regarding the issues caused by the food system and it has given me the opportunity to realise that this system needs to soon change to become sustainable.

The new knowledge and experience gained during my time at Feedback has meant that I thoroughly enjoyed my week here. I was given the opportunity to work with Claire, Food Citizens Project Manager, to help her design programmes which are going to take place in schools and I also worked with James, Project Manager, as he was planning gleans on pumpkin farms for after halloween. This has not only given me the practical skills of using different computer software, such as excel spreadsheets, but it also made me aware of the wider problems that food waste is having on the whole planet and how our current behaviours (like having pumpkins at Halloween) are unsustainable. I was able to explore the different campaigns at Feedback and they have served as a big source of inspiration for the changes that I am now going to make to my lifestyle.

I believe that this desire to change my poor habits is the most valuable thing that I will take away from my work experience here and it has made me realise that action, even by a single individual, does make a difference and that if people work together globally the effects of climate change can be reduced and this is imperative for the planet to continue to thrive. Feedback have also motivated me to want to campaign in my school for changes in the canteen which I will pursue. This experience has made me realise that we must all become active citizens and with a global effort, changes to the food system are possible.

Thank you Ella for your hard work!

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Surplus fruit and vegetables used in Kenya to feed thousands

26th Apr 17 by Edd Colbert

On average 45% of fresh produce is rejected in Kenya

In 2014 Feedback investigated Kenyan export supply chains and found that vast quantities of fruit and vegetables were being wasted due to strict cosmetic standards enforced by European retailers and unfair trading practices such as last minute order cancellations. On average 45% of fresh produce is rejected, and without sufficient demand in the local market the vast majority of this food is either dumped or fed to livestock. Farmers aren’t paid for what isn’t exported so wasted food not only means wasted resources, but also reduced income for rural communities.

Working with local partners we held the first African Disco Soup, bringing together people and surplus food to communally cook and celebrate the delicious solutions to food waste. Representatives from the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) joined us. We proposed the need for an effective redistribution system in Kenya alongside efforts to reduce waste through changes to business practices. Our report, Food Waste in Kenya, concluded that “in a country where millions of people are without adequate food and nutrition, infrastructure should be put in place to ensure surplus food is redistributed to those who need it”.

Following on from our work, a new project led by the WFP is using surplus fruit and vegetables to provide thousands of meals to school children daily. Its initial pilot scheme is currently feeding 2,200 school children one hot meal a day. Upon completion of the pilot the WFP plans to feed over 80,000 children per day. This program is expected to save over 1000 tonnes of food every year by paying exporters a small price for food that they would otherwise throw away.

How does the program work?

WFP collect surplus food from export centres, prepares meals in offsite catering facilities and deliver it to schools. They hope to eventually prepare food within school facilities. There is also talk of bringing in other actors to re-purpose some of this food into value added products. The WFP’s initiative will hopefully inspire similar projects to be developed in places where there is sadly both a surplus of produce to be eaten and millions of people unable to access regular quantities of nutritious food.

Redistribution alone won’t solve the food waste problem

Redistribution of surplus food is essential as it not only ensures food waste is avoided, but also provides people with good nutrition where they may not otherwise be able to access fresh produce. However, food waste is symptomatic of greater systemic imbalances in the supply chain and we cannot ignore the fact that farmers suffer when food cannot be sold despite being perfectly good to eat. Alongside redistribution efforts, the reduction and prevention of waste must be prioritised to ensure that farmers can afford to invest in their businesses and contribute to rural development. Businesses must take responsibility for the waste they cause in their supply chains. Supermarkets, large food brands and manufacturers all wield disproportionate power in the global food economy. The use of strict cosmetic specifications, unfair trading practices, and vague forecasting patterns all transfer excessive risk and uncertainty to suppliers and encourage overproduction leading to waste. Whilst these actors maintain this level of power they must equally act with great responsibility for the wellbeing of their suppliers, consumers, and the natural resources we all rely upon.



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