Autumn 2007Taking Stock
The informal Taking Stock group is scheduled to meet again on 6 December and, as well as the usual update from the organisations present, there will be a progress report from the sub-group dubbed 'The Small Ask' convened to help smaller food businesses obtain sustainable seafood.
Food Standards Agency consultation on sustainable fish
The Taking Stock group's opinion will be sought on how best to respond to the Food Standards Agency's consultation on incorporating sustainable development into their advice to the public on eating fish. Unfortunately, the consultation due last Spring has been delayed and the Agency appears to be refusing even to set a date for when it might emerge. Following informal exchanges with FSA officials, Sustain has written to the Chair, Deirdre Hutton, to urge the FSA Board to treat this issue with more urgency.
Summer 2007Organic standard for fish in catering
Sustain's deputy coordinator Kath Dalmeny continues to contribute to the Soil Association's Processing Standards Committee, most recently helping to develop a proposal for integrating sustainable seafish considerations into the organic standards for cafés and other catering outlets that carry Soil Association certification. Currently the standards do not cover wild caught (i.e. non-farmed) fish, as organic is an agricultural standard.
The Taking Stock group has not met since March and another meeting will probably be scheduled for autumn. However, a sub-group informally dubbed 'The Small Ask' was organised by Sustain project officer Charlotte Jarman in May as part of her Greener Food project to explore how to help smaller food businesses obtain sustainable seafood, and this group will meet again on 18 July. As part of this process Charlotte has become an accidental expert on the complexities of the sustainability (or otherwise) or harvesting crayfish.
Spring 2007Fish and heart health
Interest in sustainable fish continues to accelerate. Sustain's deputy coordinator Kath Dalmeny and Sustain's coordinator Jeanette Longfield met representatives from the British Heart Foundation, who are considering modifying their advice on eating fish for health reasons, to incorporate sustainability concerns. The Food Standards Agency has yet to issue its consultation document on the same subject, which is due in the next month or so.
In the meantime, the fourth meeting in the Taking Stock series was held on 20 March, and was generously hosted at the new offices of Marine Stewardship Council. This meeting was the largest since the inaugural meeting back in October 2005, which reflects the growing profile of the issue. Agenda items included Defra's consultation on the future of marine fisheries, statistics on the environmental damage being caused by salmon farming including organic in Scotland, and how to help smaller, independent food businesses use and promote sustainable seafood. The latter was also the subject of a very successful meeting later the same day, run by London Food Link's Greener Food project.
Helping smaller food businesses
Devising a simpler and lower cost, but still robust, method of helping smaller food businesses solve the sustainable seafood problem will be the focus of an extra Taking Stock meeting, to be organised in May by Sustain.
Organic standard for fish in catering
As part of her work with the Processing Standards Committee (PSC) of the Soil Association, Kath has been asked to help the Soil Association draw up a standard for the types of fish that can be sold in a certified organic catering outlet. Since organic standards cover only agricultural products, there is currently no standard for wild-caught fish sold in such establishments (although in practice, the few catering businesses that are organically certified by the Soil Association tend to take fish conservation concerns into account). Kath is feeding information from Taking Stock and the restaurants project into the PSC standards process.
Winter 2006-07Food Standards Agency consultation on sustainable fish
There have been positive responses to an article in The Observer in January reporting that the Food Standards Agency is now reviewing its policy of recommending to the public that they eat at least two portions of fish a week. Although the policy recommends that at least one of these portions should be oily (and many oily fish are not yet endangered species) the advice makes no mention at all of the sustainability of fish stocks. A consultation document is promised for Spring and Sustain will ensure that all relevant members and colleagues respond.
Members of the informal Taking Stock group will be among those responding, and its third meeting convened and hosted by Sustain - took place on 2 November. The fourth meeting will probably be held in early March and will once again bring together organisations concerned to promote sustainable fish consumption, to exchange information and views.
Food Facts: A series of short reports on over a dozen different products, shows how people's shopping choices - as well as government policy - can protect the environment, enhance social justice and improve health.
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