FTA calls for caution on food miles debate

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The Freight Transport Association has hit out against the government’s food strategy unveiled by environment secretary Hilary Benn at the Oxford Farming Conference.

At the conference Benn stressed the importance of labelling food by the country of origin, saying: “We do want to know about where and how our food is produced. Beef is already labelled by country of origin. So is poultry. Lamb is pretty well labelled. On pork, the Pig Meat taskforce we set up has agreed a code of practice on labelling. I expect all our retailers to sign up to it when it’s published.”

However, the FTA reckons this is “misleading” for consumers and that the distance a product has travelled is not a reliable indicator of its environmental impact.

To discern the true carbon footprint of a product, it says, one has to measure the mode of transport and also the production process.

It is now calling for a “full and honest” debate about food and produce labelling, saying that “to manage the carbon footprint of the food in our kitchens, consumers need to be given the full picture to make an informed choice.”
Christopher Snelling, head of global supply chain policy, said: “By fixating on ‘country of origin’ as an indicator of a product’s environmental credentials we are not giving consumers an accurate picture.

“Method of production, for example heated greenhouses, often has a far bigger impact than miles travelled on a product’s carbon footprint.  If consumers are given a misleading impression it will only lead to token gestures towards ‘going green’, rather than real results.”

More than one million rural African livelihoods depend on the UK’s consumption of their fruit and vegetables.
Snelling added: “By deterring people from buying produce from Africa or Asia we risk penalising millions trying to make a living in the developing world.”

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