Industry responsible for ethical consumption

Retailers should help the UK cut its food emissions by limiting consumer choice when it comes to meat and dairy, says a new report.

The report - 'Food Distribution: An Ethical Agenda' - is a culmination of a two-year study by the Food Ethics Council, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, to examine the role of food distribution in achieving an ethical, sustainable food system.

It says that immediate action is needed if the government is to reach the ambitious target of an 80% cut in emissions by 2050, as recommended by the UK's independent Climate Change Committee earlier this week.

The report argues that businesses should take their ability to influence consumer choice seriously and says that food companies should become "choice editors", focusing green measures on the biggest problems and taking the responsibility for consuming ethically off the shoulders of consumers.

It points out that the biggest cuts to emissions will come from reducing the consumption of energy-intensive foods, such as meat and dairy.

"Our food supply is in a serious mess, but we're confident that there is a way out and that now is the best time to take it," said Dr Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council.

"The credit crunch has made everyone painfully aware that we have been living beyond our means - this has hurt the poorest in society and caused untold damage to the planet.

"What we see in the food sector is that people want government and industry to help them manage their consumption - they want to get off the treadmill but can't go it alone."

The report comes as Defra announced a new council of food policy advisors, who will advise the government on food affordability, food security and the environmental impact of food production.

The Council of Food Policy Advisors will include expertise from every sector of the UK food system - from production to retail and from regulation and distribution to consumption. It will be the first body to advise on food security since World War 2.

Environment secretary Hilary Benn said that with "rising prices and increasing demand across the globe", the UK can no long afford to take its food supply for granted.

"Our food supply needs to be reliable and resilient and able to withstand shocks and crises," he said.

"It is time for a more strategic approach to food policy, and the Council will provide that strategic oversight and ensure our policies support a sustainable food system that provides safe, affordable and healthy food."

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