EFRA Committee investigates food security and wastage

The House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee will launch an inquiry into food security next Monday (20 October).

Set to be launched at New Covent Garden Market on Monday evening, the inquiry will evaluate the state of food security in the UK, covering affordability, consumption, access, and food waste.

EFRA Committee investigates food security and wastage

The inquiry aims to establish what actions need to be taken to ‘ensure every UK citizen has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food produced in a sustainable manner’, and to reduce food waste. It follows on from research released earlier this year that found that two million tonnes of household food is discarded because it is not ‘used in time’ – half of which is thrown away whole or in unopened packaging, costing UK consumers £2.4 billion a year.

As part of the work, the EFRA Committee will be looking at the factors influencing the choices people make about food, where they buy it, and how these can choices can ‘affect the nation’s ability to ensure we all have access to good food’.

Evidence sessions

To help establish this, on Wednesday (22 October), the committee will be taking evidence from:

  • food critic Jay Rayner; 
  • Director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, Mark Linehan; 
  • Chief Executive Officer of food poverty charity FareShare, Lindsay Boswell;
  • Steven Butts, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Guy Mason, Head of Corporate Affairs, and Andrew Loftus, Agriculture Manager of Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC; and
  • David McAuley, Chief Executive, and Adrian Curtis, Foodbank Network Director at The Trussell Trust.

The inquiry will also hear evidence from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), surplus food network Plan Zheroes and supermarket retailer Tesco on 29 October, and George Eustice, Minister for Farming and Food at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) on 5 November.

Once all evidence has been heard, the committee will collate its findings and recommendations in a report for government consideration. (However,  Defra has said that is ‘stepping back’ from taking forward new work in several areas of waste policy, including that of anaerobic digestion and food waste.)

“Each household still throws away too much food”

Talking about the new inquiry, Anne McIntosh, Chair of the EFRA Committee, said: “I am pleased to be launching this inquiry at Covent Garden Market where efforts are being made to help our high street markets — an important source of locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables— remain viable.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to have a healthy diet at an affordable price and which supports sustainable food production.

“One key concern is whether more can be done to tackle the staggering amount of food wasted at home, in restaurants and along the supply chain from farm to shop. While there has been some progress on this front, each household still throws away too much food.”

Previous food security report

The inquiry follows on from a corresponding report launched in June, which looked at food security in terms of production, provenance, trade, market and ‘preparedness to address long term issues arising from climate change and projected global population growth’.

Focusing primarily on the sustainability of the UK food system, including supply chain resilience, harnessing technology, and genetically modified food, the report recommended that government:

  • set out the financial contributions and support of each department to the goals and delivery of the government’s food security strategy;
  • identify Defra as the lead department for food security and appoint a Food Security Coordinator within it to ‘ensure policy coherence across government departments’;
  • give higher priority to research to enable more animal feed to be sourced from within the EU;
  • export, where possible, those products which are surplus to demand in the UK and can be produced competitively for export;
  • explore the cost implication of giving farmers access to more long-term weather forecasts as ‘a first line of defence against extreme weather’;
  • direct more funding to research on maintaining and improving soil quality;
  • produce an up-to-date action plan for reducing UK emissions and identify, as a priority, specific actions ‘which will ensure the sector can meet national greenhouse gas reduction targets’;
  • undertake a themed mapping of current scientific research that is directed specifically towards enhancing food security, and of those that ‘might exert a potentially important indirect impact on food security’; and
  • do more to inform the public about the potential beneficial impacts of growing genetically modified (GM) crops in the UK, and encourage an evidence-led public debate about GM crops.

Read more of the EFRA Committee’s previous food security report. 

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