News review

Forget ethics, say consumers

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HAS YOUGOV managed to deliver the first survey in which consumers have answered honestly in relation to their ethical purchasing habits? The pollster (along with Winkworth Sherwood) found that only 7% of the UK population say that ethical concerns about slavery, forced labour and human trafficking have the same or a greater influence on purchasing decisions than price and quality. In 2013, more than 1,700 cases of slavery were reported in the UK, and it’s estimated to affect almost 30m people worldwide. Despite this, consumers rank its importance when it comes to choosing what to buy fairly low, beneath convenience (14%), brand reputation (13%) and recommendations from friends and family (9%). There was also good news for Starbucks: transparency about a company’s tax affairs was bottom of the pile (2%). Price (76%) and quality (62%) were rated the most important factors.

 

Free-from guidance

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UNDER THE EU’s Food Information Regulations, launched in December 2014, food businesses must accurately track, record and communicate what menu items contain any of the 14 most common foods that cause allergic reactions, such as nuts, shellfish and eggs. However, with the exception of “gluten-free”, there are no specific rules at either UK or EU level governing the use of “free-from” claims, neither is there any publically available guidance for businesses on making such claims. The BRC and FDF have therefore produced new guidance for food retailers, manufacturers and caterers wanting to use these claims.

 

Broken food system

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TIM LANG provided a damning assessment of UK food policy this week. In a comment piece for Ends Report, the respected City University professor, said political will and social vision has “evaporated” when it comes to re-designing our food systems. “[…] politicians bow before the food sector for its lean managerialism and refuse to restructure the system. Politicians want low prices, but these institutionalise ruthless practices and waste,” he noted. There is also “resistance to building a sustainable food system”, he added. “No wonder waste rates remain dire.” Lang also suggested ministers had been seduced by anaerobic digestion, whilst supermarkets continued to push waste up or down the supply chain.

 

Living wage fears

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THE SCOTTISH Grocers’ Federation has used new figures, showing that the jobless total north of the border rose by 11,000 in the three months to September, to push for a re-think of the national living wage. “The living wage will simply lead to yet more unemployment in 2016 with a particularly negative impact on women,” said head of public affairs John Lee. The higher minimum wage is set to come into force in April 2016.

 

And finally…

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THE GUARDIAN this week reported from the schools in the US that have shunned the idea of meat reduction in favour of no-meat policies. Some have gone vegan – a move that’s not always well-received. For example, when MUSE school in Calabasas, California, decided to become the first to switch to a “plant-based” menu (this autumn), 40% of the students were withdrawn by concerned parents. But numbers have recovered and are now the highest on record, according to the school’s head.

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