Food retailers and government must do more to increase sales of healthy food while taking stronger action to reduce the millions of tonnes of produce that needlessly goes to waste each year, a group of MPs warned.
Despite the Government’s efforts to promote healthy eating, the UK is facing a health crisis linked to poor nutrition, the EFRA Committee said.
Its report on food security published today offers a manifesto of sorts for the next government, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) urged to affect changes to healthy eating habits and food waste.
The situation is urgent, MPs say, as children and adults are eating 50 per cent more saturated fat and children eat 50 per cent more sugar than recommended levels. According to not-for-profit organisation Love Food Hate Waste - part of the government’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) - fruit and vegetables consist of 27 per cent of all food thrown away - more than any other type.
Dr Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at WRAP, said: “Food waste is a huge global problem. Each year UK homes produce seven million tonnes of food waste of which more than half could have been eaten.”
EFRA say retailers and central and local government must give better information to shoppers to improve access to affordable, healthy food, including more encouragement to buy British produce, and it urges retailers to provide more in-depth product information online and in store.
Anne McIntosh, EFRA Committee chairman and Conservative MP for Malton, Thirsk and Filey, said: “With shoppers typically spending only a few seconds deciding what product to buy, the food industry and retailers can better help consumers to buy food from sustainable sources through providing clearer and more informative information.”
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability for the British Retail Consortium, said retailers sourced the vast majority of food products from Britain and had a track record of giving detailed information to shoppers, saying: “Retailers have been at the forefront of providing consumers with information about their food such as calorie and country of origin labelling without the need of extensive legislation.”
EFRA wants Defra to commission research to support improved food labelling, to set up a task force to co-ordinate work by charities, councils, retailers, food producers and manufacturers to create an effective waste food redistribution network, and to appoint a food security co-ordinator to ensure far greater volumes of food are redistributed.