Appendix: Government response |
The Government welcomes the Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs Committee's second report on Food Security.
Consumer choice and food security
1. We do not argue in this report for a regulatory
shift towards compulsion over consumers' food purchasing decisions.
We therefore make recommendations for more co-ordinated and focussed
actions by the Government, food producers and suppliers, and the
third sector to support consumer choices that enhance the ability
of all to obtain sufficient safe, healthy and affordable food.
We support a robust regulatory framework for the nation's food
production and retail systems; consumers must be able to make
their choices about what food to buy and from where to buy it
knowing that there are strong measures in place to protect their
interests. (Paragraph 8)
The Government agrees with the Committee that consumers
should be empowered to make their own informed choices. We also
recognise the importance of food security, insofar as British
consumers have access to safe, affordable and nutritious food.
Defra leads a co-ordinated and focussed approach that ensures
food security is a priority across the range of relevant policy
areas within Government.
2. We endorse the work of the Government together
with farmers, food producers and processors, and retailers to
promote UK food to consumers to help ensure the long-term future
of national food production. (Paragraph 12)
Food and farming are hugely important to the UK economy,
worth more than £100bn a year and employing approximately
1 in 8 people. We are working with farmers, manufacturers and
retailers to ensure the UK has the right climate to attract increased
inward investment and to enable UK producers to grow and compete.
For instance, in February we announced the first round of successful
bids to create Food Enterprise Zones. These will make the planning
process easier for ambitious food businesses that want to expand.
We also continue to support industry in enhancing skill levels
and increasing education and engagement of schools and the general
public with the agricultural sector.
The Government recognises that there is public demand
to buy British and we are working with industry to make that easier
for consumers. Consequently, compulsory country of origin labelling
for pork, poultry, lamb and goat meat is being introduced in April
as part of the EU Food Information to Consumer Regulation.
On an international scale, we are helping local food
producers to gain European recognition and legal protection against
imitation for their quality, history, and links to the local area.
Over 60 British foods as diverse as Cornish Clotted Cream, Cumberland
Sausages, Arbroath Smokies and Wensleydale Cheese now hold the
same quality mark as Parma Ham and Champagne. Since we gave evidence
in November, we have made progress on increasing exports to China
and finalised negotiations to export UK processed pork to India.
3. We welcome the co-ordinated efforts of those
producing and retailing fresh produce to exploit longer growing
seasons for some fruit and vegetable products. Defra, together
with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, should
continue to work closely with producers and retailers to develop
and widen markets for these products. (Paragraph 16)
We are pleased with the Committee's positive observations
and will continue to work closely with producers and retailers
in this area, building on existing successes.
4. Despite efforts to promote healthy eating,
the UK is still experiencing high levels of health problems linked
to poor diet, in particular problems caused by excessive consumption.
While we welcome the work of a range of government departments,
local authorities and retailers to promote healthy food choices
there needs to be greater integration between the bodies, with
firm strategic leadership from the Department for Health. The
Government must ensure that innovative local approaches are disseminated
to enable far greater numbers of councils, supermarkets and local
NHS bodies to develop more effective means of targeting messages.
The Department of Health provides strategic leadership
across the public health system and leads on engagement with the
food industry to help make the healthy choice the easy choice
for consumers. Through the voluntary partnership with industry,
significant progress has been made: to reduce calories (including
sugars), salt and saturated fat in food; to reduce portion sizes
and change the default to the healthier alternative; and to encourage
greater consumption of fruit and vegetables. Our recommended voluntary
front of pack labelling scheme is popular with consumers, providing
easy to interpret nutritional information to help them make healthier
choices when purchasing food. But we are not complacent and will
continue to work with industry to go further.
Public Health England provides independent advice
to government on the evidence for effective interventions in relation
to diet and nutrition and works with local authorities to support
the implementation and sharing of best practice at community level
to encourage a healthy diet. Local authorities have been given
£8.2bn over three years to help them manage public health
issues, including obesity.
Change4Life is PHE's flagship social marketing programme
which encourages people to eat well and move more through inspiring
a societal movement for change. The national campaign provides
a framework for local authorities to follow as well as advice,
materials and healthy eating messaging for use in their communities.
5. Government policies require a robust
evidence basis, yet Defra currently uses data that do not reflect
consumption accurately. The Department should use data published
by Public Health England on nutritional intakes to refine its
own estimates so as to take into account food bought but not subsequently
consumed. (Paragraph 22)
The Defra and PHE surveys need to use different methods
to ensure their data are reliable for their purposes. Defra's
Family Food data estimates household expenditure and purchases
of food and drink. Nutritional intake estimates derived from purchased
quantities take account of the inedible part of foods, but not
of avoidable food waste. However, long term trends in intakes
are considered to be valid.
PHE's National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) is
still building its trend information, but measuring individual
food consumption provides a clearer picture of food and nutrient
intakes, in population sub-groups as well as the population as
a whole. NDNS focuses on actual consumption by asking people to
record in detail the type and quantity of foods they eat. Participants
are asked to record what was actually eaten, so food waste, either
on the plate or in preparation, is not quantified, as this is
not the focus of the survey.
There is no simple and accurate way to calculate
food waste by subtracting food consumption measured by NDNS from
purchases recorded by Family Food. To refine Family Food estimates
to take into account avoidable food waste would require detailed
data on food waste to apply to them.
Supporting effective consumer
6. Consumers must make a large number of
rapid decisions over myriad purchasing decisions every day, so
any information provided at the point of sale must be clear and
easily assimilated. We recommend that Defra review with retailers
the effectiveness of labelling regulations in informing consumers
on key provenance and sustainability factors. Price and brand
are easy signals to interpret so drive many consumer decisions.
We recommend that Defra seek with retailers to provide equally
clear, informative and accurate signals on provenance, sustainability
and nutrition. (Paragraph 27)
The Government agrees that any information provided
at point of sale should be clear and easily assimilated. Clear,
accurate, relevant and substantiated sustainability labelling
and claims, in both advertising and on products, are important
in helping consumers to understand the environmental, social and
economic impacts of products and services, and thus enabling them
to make informed choices.
False, misleading or confusing labels and claims
have the potential to undermine consumer confidence and lead to
unfair competition between businesses. European consumers are
protected against such factors by the Unfair Commercial Practices
Directive (UCPD), transposed into UK law through the Consumer
Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. The UK Government
is working with the European Commission to improve the environmental
claims guidance, focussing, in particular, on providing more clarity
for businesses on what constitute credible claims.
The Government agrees that retailers should provide
clear, informative and accurate signals on provenance. There are
two elements to this; one being that consumers have confidence
in the provenance of their food and the second being that consumers
should have the choice to buy food based on its origin. In relation
to the former, consumer confidence and the integrity of the food
chain is primarily the responsibility of industry, as set out
in European legislation. The Government has made it clear that
all food businesses, including large retailers, need to review
their own systems to demonstrate to consumers they are in full
control of their supply chains and what they tell consumers is
accurate. The Government has also accepted all the recommendations
from the Elliott Review. From an enforcement perspective, the
Food Crime Unit in the FSA is now operational.
We have pushed hard for mandatory country of origin
labelling for meat, which comes into effect on 1 April, and we
have made clear that we support moves, where feasible, to provide
for better country of origin labelling of milk and dairy products.
The Government has set the clear objective of ensuring
that a sustainable, resource efficient and competitive UK food
and farming sector is supported through The Plan for Public Procurement
of Food and Catering Services. The plan includes a 'balanced scorecard'
that gives clear information about what the public sector is looking
for, including sustainability criteria.
We are also working closely with retailers to review
the effectiveness of labelling regulations in informing consumers
on key sustainability factors. Defra has commissioned a baseline
study to enable us to measure the impact of the new EU legislation
on Food Information to Consumers. We will evaluate the impacts
of a range of aspects of this legislation, including those on
sustainability, on consumers' behaviour. The UK's work on waste
reduction contributes significantly to increasing sustainability.
In relation to consumer signalling, we have promoted the use of
single date labels to reduce confusion about a product's lifespan.
Details of our work on reducing food waste are included in the
'tackling food waste' section.
The government's recommended voluntary front of pack
labelling scheme was launched in sept 2013. It provides greater
consistency in the provision of nutritional information for food
and drink products than had been previously achieved across the
UK market. Research shows that this consistency in labelling information
helps consumers make healthier, better informed food choices.
Our recommended labelling scheme has been adopted by businesses
responsible for more than two-thirds of the pre-packed food and
drink market in the UK. It is supported by a large number of consumer
and health non-government organisations, who have signed a joint
statement supporting the scheme.
7. Further the Department should commission
research into the use of sustainability claims on products in
order to assess the accuracy of such labelling. Defra should promote
the use of accreditation schemes with high levels of quality assurance,
such as Red Tractor, since they allow customers to make choices
of products based on the scheme brand. (Paragraph 28)
Sustainability claims (including labels) can play
a valuable role in demonstrating and communicating the sustainability
standards and credentials of different products. However the proliferation
of claims and sometimes contradictory advice, can create confusion
for consumers and businesses.
In 2011 the Government produced Green Claims Guidance
and an accompanying 'quick guide', which provide advice to business
on making clear, accurate, relevant and substantiated environmental
claims on products, services or in marketing and advertising.
It also highlights the importance of using reputable schemes with
clear criteria, backed up by robust verification processes, including
via inspections. Several supporting studies were undertaken to
prepare the guidance, including an assessment of green claims
in marketing, assessment of green claims on products, and a report
on consumer understanding of environmental terms. The findings
concluded that claims were widespread, although the studies did
not evaluate the validity of claims.
The Plan for Procurement of Food and Catering Services
recognises the value of assurance schemes in helping the market
verify compliance. Defra is currently working with a range of
partners to produce a guide which indicates how a range of existing
assurance schemes help to achieve compliance with the Government's
Defra is actively investigating the feasibility of
providing comparative sustainability data on fresh and lightly-processed
produce to consumers at the point of purchase, either when ordering
online or in-store using a smartphone 'App' linked to the phone's
A Defra-funded research project to investigate the
comparative sustainability of agricultural production under different
agricultural certification schemes is scheduled to report in March
2015. The project is using lifecycle assessment techniques and
available scheme metrics (e.g. on diffuse pollution, resource
use) and quantitative and qualitative assessments (e.g. of animal
welfare standards, biodiversity and 'fair-trade' outcomes) to
investigate claims that agricultural labelling schemes can be
used to indicate the relative sustainability of individual food
8. We recommend that Defra work with retailers
and their representative bodies to promulgate best practice on
online information provision such as tools to allow customers
to search for the healthiest products when compiling an online
order. (Paragraph 31)
The Government's recommended front of pack nutrition
labelling scheme is supported by online labelling and explanations
of the scheme by a wide range of organisations, including NHS
Choices, major food retailers and manufacturers, Which?, Royal
College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Cancer Research UK, Children's
Food Campaign, British Heart Foundation, the Faculty of Public
Health and many others. The availability of such information from
a number of online sources is helping to raise awareness of the
scheme and increase public recognition.
Supermarkets are also developing online tools to
allow customers to search for, or swap to, healthier products
when compiling an online order.
Tackling food waste
9. Despite reductions in recent years, the UK
continues to waste significant volumes of food, and the amount
of edible food being disposed of remains unacceptably high. At
a time when global food systems are under pressure and the UK
faces its own food security challenges, this level of waste is
unacceptable economically, socially and environmentally. There
is no magic bullet for tackling this; rather measures must be
diligently applied across the food supply chain from producer
to consumer in order to achieve steady results. (Paragraph 40)
Work in the first two phases of the Courtauld Commitment
has contributed to a 15% reduction in household food waste since
2007 and signatories reported a reduction of 7.4% in food and
drink supply chain waste since 2010. The current third phase is
targeting a further 1.1 million tonnes of food and packaging waste
reduction in households and the supply chain by the end of this
year. We are also working with the hospitality sector to prevent
food waste and improve food waste management in restaurants, pubs
and canteens targeting for a 5% reduction in food waste and associated
packaging waste by the end of the year. The agreement also has
a target to increase signatories recycling rates for food and
packaging to 70% by the end of 2015.
These are significant reductions but we agree with
the recommendation of the Committee that further action must be
taken across the food supply chain to further reduce food waste.
We are therefore working with WRAP and the food industry to achieve
In order to further reduce household food waste,
we're helping households waste less and save money through "Love
Food Hate Waste" which raises awareness of the need to reduce
food waste and helps us all take action in our homes. WRAP has
dedicated campaigns in partnership with food retailers launched
in 10 cities across the UK to offer further support to households
to reduce the food they waste. During the launches, WRAP spoke
to over 15,000 people and received over 3,000 pledges from city
dwellers committed to Do One Thing Differently to act on their
own food waste. Since the success of the launches, the Love Food
Hate Waste team, supported by its partners, is bringing Cookery
Classes, 'Save More' Kitchen Skill Lessons, a Food Champion Network
amongst other initiatives to the 10 cities across the UK.
There are also several projects to support waste
prevention initiatives within the food and drink supply chain.
Through WRAP, Defra supports the work of the Product Sustainability
Forum (PSF). This is a collaboration of organisations including
grocery retailers and suppliers, academics, NGOs and Government
representatives to measure, improve and communicate the environmental
performance of grocery products. In 2013, PSF published the report
'An initial assessment of the environmental impact of grocery
products', which identified the waste, water, carbon and energy
hotspots for the top 50 grocery products. PSF has supported pathfinder
projects that emphasise a whole chain approach to resource efficiency
on priority products. Defra has also commissioned research to
quantify losses of edible harvested or harvestable food (intended
for human consumption) on-farm owing to external factors beyond
the grower's control.
Based on the work of the PSF and the success of the
Courtauld Commitment, WRAP are developing proposals for a new
industry-led agreementCourtauld 2025to promote action
on grocery products with the highest environmental impact across
the whole food supply chain. Reducing food waste will be a key
element of these proposals, but the scope will be wider than previous
agreements, with wider aims concerning food sustainability and
security. This will build on the success of the current voluntary
agreements on food waste and will enable businesses to take increased
ownership of these issues.
10. It is essential that the Government
provides the Waste and Resources Action Programme with sufficient
public funding such that, alongside investment from other sources
such as trusts and charities, it has adequate resources to enable
it to maintain momentum in its food waste reduction programmes.
This makes good economic sense even in times of financial constraint,
since programmes to reduce food waste deliver both public and
private benefits beyond their costs. (Paragraph 42)
Government activities must focus on areas that only
Government can and must do, i.e. where there is a clear market
failure. With that in mind, the Government continues to support
the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), essential to
support businesses in realising the benefits of resource efficiency
and improved resource management.
Food waste remains an area where market failures
still exist. Therefore, Defra continues to support WRAP for this
work at a level of funding which is broadly similar to that before
the review, and an increase in terms of its proportion of overall
funding to WRAP. We have ensured that delivery of our food waste
objectives remains a top priority for WRAP. Defra continue to
work closely with WRAP, seeking views of a wide range of stakeholders
to ensure that the activities we fund are targeted at making a
critical difference to business performance.
Securing affordable food
11. Charities provided us with their own
evidence of a growing number of people accessing emergency food
aid, yet there is no national collation of this data nor sufficient
analysis on how usage of foodbanks may be linked to rising food
prices or constraints on incomes. We recommend that Defra commission
further research into why more people are using foodbanks to provide
an evidence base to inform and enhance policy responses. We recommend
that the Government collect objective and statistically robust
data on the scale of household food insecurity, including through
the use of questions in the food costs sections of the UK's Living
Costs and Food Survey. It should also monitor trends over time
so that the effectiveness of policies can be accurately gauged
and any necessary changes made in response to evidence of need.
In its response to this report Ministers should set out detailed
proposals for how it will work with partners to gather data, the
timescale for establishing a work programme and its anticipated
outputs. (Paragraph 48)
When Defra published research last year on food aid
in the UK, the conclusion was that the provision of food aid ranges
from small, local operations to regional and national schemes.
The landscape is diverse, reflecting the various communities and
organisations that devote their time to helping people in need.
Some of these food aid providers take records, whereas others
do not. As an obstacle to collecting data on food aid provision,
we would be reluctant to oblige communities to collect data on
top of the hard work they are already doing.
In respect of the reasons why people are turning
to food aid, the issue encompasses economic, social and environmental
influences. As the All-Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry on Hunger
and Food Poverty's Report noted, the reasons why people use food
banks can be complex and are frequently overlapping. A single
question on food insecurity in the Living Costs and Food Survey
would not be able to cover the complexities of the issue and may
bias responses to other sections of the Survey in relation to
the participant's outgoings. A more comprehensive set of questions
would present continued difficulties with choosing the relevant
questions, again considering the complexity of the issue. Though
the current Survey includes a question on 'free food', the source
is not recorded and would not exclusively capture food donated
from charity. On a practical level, the Survey sample is relatively
small (around 5,500 households p.a.) and only covers the entire
private household population, thus excluding the homeless. It
is therefore unlikely to produce sufficient data. The ONS agrees
with Government that the Survey would not be suitable for collecting
food insecurity data.
12. People living in areas, both rural and urban,
with few retail outlets can find it difficult to buy affordable,
healthy food, particularly if they have limited mobility or travel
budgets. It is therefore vital that local authorities work with
retailers to ensure that store development plans take into account
the needs of all in their communities and that councils are pro-active
in using planning to meet their public health objectives. Technological
developments such as internet shopping have a role to play in
enabling access to affordable food supplies, and it is vital that
communities are not disadvantaged by poor broadband service. (Paragraph
We welcome retailers opening more local stores that
offer good value for consumers.
The Government also recognises that fast, reliable
broadband internet access is essential for all rural homes and
communities to benefit from on-line services, including food shopping.
Under the £780m superfast rollout programme, the Government
is committed to providing 90% coverage of superfast broadband
by early 2016 and 95% coverage of superfast broadband by December
2017. All remaining premises will have access to a minimum standard
broadband of at least 2Mbps by the end of 2015.
13. Food which is edible but surplus to requirements
should not become waste. We welcome the efforts of a large number
of charities to redistribute such food to people in need, but
little surplus food is being redistributed and the vast majority
is discarded. Redistributing food, particularly fresh food, is
a logistical challenge: donors need an incentive to provide surplus
food in the first place and it must be matched with the right
recipients quickly while still edible. We welcome the food donations
being made by producers and retailers, but organisations could
donate higher quantities if they were more pro-active in finding
outlets for surplus food in a timely manner. Retailers should
work with charities such as Plan Zheroes who are playing a growing
role in finding practical solutions. Moreover supermarkets must
ensure all their outlets have a sound understanding of how to
make surplus food available safely and legally but without being
unduly risk-averse.(Paragraph 61)
See response to point 14 below.
14. We welcome the work of social enterprises
such as Company Shop in developing innovative models to provide
quality food at affordable prices to those with income constraints.
There is considerable potential for these approaches to be scaled
up. However achieving a step-change in the level of redistribution
requires concerted action that it would be difficult for a diffuse
set of largely voluntary organisations to deliver. (Paragraph
Voluntary agreements with the food and drink industry
encourage action in line with the waste hierarchy. If surplus
food cannot be prevented, the next best option is to ensure it
is redistributed for people to eat. The existing supply chain
reduction target under the Courtauld Commitment encourages the
redistribution of surplus food, which would otherwise become waste.
A resilient supply chain will always have some surplus,
and we welcome the redistribution of good quality surplus food
to charities that can ensure it goes to people in need. We welcome
the actions that charities such as FareShare, FoodCycle, Company
Shop and Plan Zheroes are taking to redistribute surplus food
to support vulnerable people.
We agree that supermarkets play a crucial role in
reducing waste and redistributing surplus food. We recognise that
all major supermarkets have signed the Courtauld Commitment and
continue to introduce innovative policies to reduce waste and
redistribute surplus wherever possible.
15. Whilst approaches must be based on local
requirements and driven by local communities, Defra should set
up a task force to co-ordinate national work by charities, local
authorities, retailers, food producers and manufacturers to establish
an effective food redistribution network across the country. This
should be a key remit of a Food Security Co-ordinator, who should
also ensure that food and waste policies inter-link effectively.
The Government commends the work of the food industry
and redistribution charities in their efforts to reduce waste
and provide food to people in need. Yet we are committed to doing
even more to forge closer links between industry and redistribution
Latest Courtauld 3 figures show that food redistribution
has more than doubled since 2011. The increase from 2012 to 2013
was 80%. To build on this, last year we facilitated work by the
industry to set themselves guiding principles for prioritising
redistribution. Furthermore, we convened a Ministerial roundtable
in January 2015, co-chaired by the Defra Secretary of State and
Minister for Civil Society, to discuss how more surplus food can
be redistributed, including supporting the work of local charities.
Following this roundtable, WRAP has coordinated an action plan
of work on food redistribution. This includes developing and sharing
data to better understand the redistribution landscape and where
more surplus food could be obtained for giving to people. Related
to this, the action plan seeks to develop a common language and
definitions to provide an underlying framework for redistribution.
The action plan also considers the possibility of creating a supply
chain working group, which would include work specifically on
WRAP will be facilitating this work, with industry
and charities principally taking ownership to deliver on the action
plan. This is preferable to Government leading on this work. Industry
and charities are best placed to coordinate this work as they
have the operational knowledge to put words into action. We agree
that Government has a role to play and we are fulfilling this
by coordinating the relevant stakeholders and fostering a collaborative
approach to increasing food redistribution.