UK failing on food sustainability

The UK is “languishing” behind other high-income countries in its performance on food sustainability, according to a new global ranking.

Sweden, Japan and Canada occupied the first three places in the latest Food Sustainability Index (FSI) with the UK way down in 20th position, below countries like Australia, Estonia and South Korea.

Developed by the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) and Economist Impact, the annual FSI ranks countries on their performance on food sustainability across 38 indicators and 100 sub-indicators. A total of 78 countries were assessed in the latest index of which 34 are classified as high income.

Although the UK ranked in the top 10 countries on food waste, animal welfare policies and affordability of a healthy, sustainable diet, it came 76th for trade impact, 63rd for prevalence of over-nourishment and 56th for diet composition.

Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, said the UK’s performance “languishing in 20th place” showed that “a bold UK government response to the national food strategy is desperately needed”.

Although the FEC said in a briefing paper that it was not feasible for countries to lead in every area, it argued that the UK should aspire to be a global leader and called for the adoption of “an outward-looking internationalist approach, exchanging lessons with other countries”.

The UK government is due to publish a white paper in response to Henry Dimbleby’s national food strategy for England in the spring. The FEC also lists the development of a Good Food Nation Bill in Scotland along with a possible Food Bill in Wales and the Northern Ireland food strategy framework as “positive elements in the UK on which to build”.

Defra recently published a food security assessment which concluded that climate change and other environmental pressures like biodiversity loss and overexploitation of natural capital resources, including fish stocks and water resources, “threaten the stability and long-term sustainability of global food production”.

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