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Sustain / Labelling for sustainability / Updates

Labelling for sustainability update 2008

Summer 2008

Sustainability labelling
Work continues, albeit slowly, on sustainability scoring and labelling. In May, Sustain coordinator Jeanette Longfield and a volunteer met a representative from the Co-op who is working on these issues as part of their responsible retail initiative. It is expected that the Carbon Trust/British Standards Institute carbon labelling initiative will be launched in October.

Traffic light nutrition labelling
Sustain submitted a response to the FSA consultation on the EU’s draft labelling directive. We are calling for individual Member States to have the right to introduce compulsory national nutrition schemes such as traffic light labelling.

Spring 2008

BSI standard for sustainable food Sustain's policy director Kath Dalmeny has responded to the British Standards Institute’s consultation on carbon labelling (known by the catchy title of ‘PAS-2050’). She emphasised the need to consider wider issues than just carbon when measuring food sustainability; and urged Defra to help smaller producers, processors and others in the food sector (who might not be able to afford the very complex protocol BSI recommends) to undertake life cycle analysis. The paper (download here - 20Kb pdf) also argued that the rush to labelling is premature. The same response was submitted to the Carbon Trust’s consultation on “an internationally applicable product-related carbon emissions reduction framework (provisionally called the PERF) which the Carbon Trust is currently developing and which will be publicly available”.

Co-op and sustainability labelling
Our work with the Co-operative Retail Group (CRG) on the sustainability scoring and labelling approach discussed at the Sustain members meeting last summer is making only slow progress, due other pressures on CRG staff time. Meanwhile, Kath continues to work with a number of organisations to maintain the pressure on the Food Standards Agency and other regulatory bodies to tackle the misuse of sustainability terms in food marketing – specifically ‘seasonal’, ‘local’ and ‘farmers’ market’. Sustain will also be responding, before the beginning of May closing date, to the FSA consultation on the EU proposal for a new regulation on the provision of food information to consumers.

Winter 2007/08

BSI standard for sustainable food
The BSI continues to be interested in bringing together representatives from the food manufacturing and catering industries, with campaign and policy specialists, to explore the possible content and remit of a British Standard for sustainable food. Sustain's policy director Kath Dalmeny met with BSI staff in December to discuss this further.

Co-op and sustainability labelling
Jeanette has continued to work with the Co-operative Retail Group (CRG) on the sustainability scoring and labelling approach. As part of its responsible retailing initiative, the CRG has already committed itself to put some products through the Carbon Trust/British Standards Institute carbon labelling initiative.

Misleading marketing claims
In January, Sustain issued a press release condemning Heinz for hijacking the phrase "Farmers' Market" for its tinned soup, whose ingredients bear little relation to what would be on sale in a real farmers' market - i.e. fresh, local, seasonal food sold by the grower themselves. This press release marked the launch of the report Ethical Hijack, revealing the abuse of terms such as "local" and "seasonal" by supermarkets and food manufacturers.

The report called for the Food Standards Agency, Advertising Standards Agency and Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services to take steps to ensure that “local”, “seasonal” and “farmers’ market” should be defended from abuse by the mainstream food industry. Click here for a page on Sustain's report Ethical Hijack, where it can be downloaded free of charge.

At the same time, Eurostar launched its St Pancras home with posters saying ‘Meet you at the Farmers’ Market’ which does not yet exist. Kath complained formally about both these examples to the Advertising Standards Authority, which is pursuing the complaint.

Traffic light nutrition labelling
The Children’s Food Campaign has become a member of the ‘Adopters and Supporters group’ for the Food Standards Agency's traffic light labelling scheme. This will allow us to coordinate our work better on this subject with other sympathetic organisations and companies that currently use the scheme.

Labelling for sustainability: Sustain has worked on nutrition and sustainability labelling issues since the alliance was established in 1999.

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