Food & Drink Supply Downing Street Summit
Food industry leaders attended Downing Street this week to discuss ‘farm to fork’ food supply and inflation as well as supply issues. Which? has pointed out some own brand food items have gone up 25%.
This is in conjunction with a cross party ‘Fairness in the Food Supply Chain’ enquiry that was reported last week and will investigate how the government monitors and regulates the supply chain. MPs to investigate fairness in food prices and supply - Committees - UK Parliament
A range of measures were announced this week ahead of the ‘summit’:
The government has confirmed that Government backs British farmers with new package of support - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk):
- Investment of £2m to boost global trade shows and missions, as well as providing £1.6m for the GREAT food and drink campaign.
- Build on existing overseas network with five additional agri-food and drink
- Extend funding to promote seafood exports with an extra £1 million between 2025 and 2028, and create a new bespoke £1m programme to help dairy businesses, particularly SMEs, to seize export opportunities, particularly in the Asia pacific region.
Technologies to strengthen food security:
- Up to £30 million of investment in the use of precision breeding technologies, building on the £8 million already invested over the last five years and the passing of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act earlier this year
- The creation of a new working group – bringing together plant breeders, food manufacturers and retailers – to get produce from farms to the shelves.
Pricing structures at retail:
- Utilising the Agriculture Act to improve transparency and contracts in the pork and dairy markets;
- Additional reviews into fairness in the horticulture and egg supply chains.
- The Grocery Code Adjudicator will not be merged with the Competition and Markets Authority. This was advised against by food producers and so is a key positive step.
The horticulture sector:
Replacing the retained EU Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organisation Scheme when it closes in 2026 with an expanded offer as part of new farming payment schemes.
Including making it easier to build new glasshouses through changes to national planning policy
Plans to cut the red tape currently holding farmers back from delivering projects on their land to diversify their incomes, such as re-purposing farm buildings to use as shops, with a call for evidence later this year.
Increasing water security by accelerating work on water supply infrastructure, so that farmers can count on steady access to water, including in periods of intense dry weather.
Also, 22 innovative and ground-breaking projects have been awarded a share of £6.2 million of funding through the Seafood Innovation Fund, as part of the government’s UK Seafood Fund.
Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) review of grocery sector supply chains
The CMA’s action to help contain cost of living pressures - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The CMA this week updated on the action it is taking to help contain rising cost of living pressures in road fuel and groceries.
The CMA is indicating that it is “stepping up its work in the grocery sector” to understand whether “any failure in competition is contributing to prices being higher than they would be in a well-functioning market”. The CMA has indicated that it intends to a focussed approach and part of its work will assess which product categories might merit closer examination across the supply chain. Although the CMA’s document does not say as much, it appears that the CMA might be lining itself up to do a market study (depending on the outcome of its initial assessment).
Detail provided is that:
The prices that consumers pay for their groceries are the result of competition at three main levels of the market:
- Competition between retailers, where consumers shop for their products.
- Competition between suppliers who make the products and sell them to the retailers.
- Competition between raw material providers who provide the inputs to food suppliers.
The CMA will work in a targeted way, focusing on those areas where people are experiencing greatest cost of living pressures.
This will be divided up to cover:
First, completing work to assess how competition is working overall in the grocery retail market, drawing on publicly available data and other information.
Second, in parallel, identifying which product categories, if any, might merit closer examination across the supply chain.
The CMA will then engage with a wide range of industry participants, experts, and other stakeholder groups to inform their assessment. An update on this work will be provided over the coming months.
REUL sunset clause to be further restricted for food safety?
The government confirmed last week that it is no longer pursuing the sunset clause in the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (REUL).
On 15 May, House of Lords’ peers backed by 142 votes to 132 a provision to ensure ministerial powers to revoke, replace or update retained EU law do not undermine current environmental protections or food safety standards.
Peers including more than a dozen Conservatives voted to amend the bill to include a requirement that any laws being revoked go before a joint committee in both Houses of Parliament with a debate and vote.
Stakeholders will want to examine the new Schedule to assess its impact.
Ireland alcohol warnings on alcohol challenged
SpiritsEurope and wine industry organization Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV) have submitted formal complaints asking the European Commission to open an infringement procedure against Ireland for allegedly 'breaching EU law' with its planned new regulation on labelling rules for alcoholic beverages.
The new Irish labels are part of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act in 2018, which has already introduced minimum alcohol pricing.
The Public Health Alcohol Act 2018 has implemented plans to require labels on alcohol packaging linking drinks to cancer. The Irish Department of Health plans for cigarette pack-style warning labels – which make a direct link between alcohol and “fatal cancers” as well as details of alcohol and calorie content per bottle
The complaint claims the proposals will damage the EU Single Market.
Spirits Europe, a group representing small distillers and major alcohol producers including Guinness maker Diageo and Pernod Ricard which produces Ireland’s Jameson Whiskey.
Brewers of Europe represents EU beer makers in 29 countries, as well as the European Committee of Wine Companies (CEEV), acts on behalf of 7,000 wine producers.
Spirits Europe has stated Ireland’s plan represents a disproportionate trade barrier and would make it considerably more complex and more expensive for non-Irish producers and distributors.
Infringements can ultimately lead to court cases and fines if Brussels finds rules damage the single market.
The EU approved the labels last December, despite formal objections or concerns from 13 countries, including France, Italy and Spain. Nine countries, including the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand, are understood to have submitted comments under a World Trade Organization (WTO) “technical barriers to trade” process, which concluded last week.
Drinks makers want Ireland to freeze its plans until the European Commission comes forward with EU-wide alcohol health warnings.
The European Commission has two weeks to decide whether the beer, wine and spirits makers have a case, and a year to decide whether to start an infringement against Ireland.
The Department of Health has said it can’t introduce the labels until it gets WTO assent.
A WTO meeting on the issue is scheduled for June 21.
Meanwhile, EU wine makers are preparing for requirements at the end of the year to introduce EU-wide e-labels, via a QR code containing a full list of ingredients and calories.
Food waste and collection
The Environment Act 2021 introduced changes to waste collection so that recyclable household waste (which includes food waste) must be ‘collected separately from other household waste’. Food waste itself must be collected at least once a week.
New measures will come into force this year, 2023, meaning those in the hospitality sector not already doing so, will be required to separate their food wastage from their general waste and have it collected separately.
The new food waste legislation in England brings changes to how companies need to manage and dispose of their food waste in order to remain compliant.
This Act supports the commitment of the UK government towards eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030, outlined in the Waste and Resources strategy for England.
Food waste will need to be separated from all other types of waste produced at any business. The new legilisation sets out that:
- All food waste must be separated into a different bin for collection.
- Food cannot be sent to landfill or incineration; it must be sent for recycling. The two methods that can be used are composting or anaerobic digestion.
- Macerators (units which chop and flush food down drains using high volumes of water) or liquidising digesters will be banned completely.
- Drying or dewatering systems will still be permitted – these can reduce the volume of your food waste when it comes to collection.
- All fees payable for waste recycling is the responsibility of the business creating it – or whose staff create it.
In terms of commercial sites, the legislation affects all food waste generating organisations. These include all businesses and sectors that generate food waste as part of their daily routine such as retail, hospitality, healthcare, education, business.
The exact date has yet to be announced in England.
Wales is closer to implementation of these rules than England. Currently the Wales food waste segregation legalisation is set to come into force from October 2023. For all business operating within Wales there is also set to be a 5kg exemption. Any business which produces less than 5kg of food waste per week will not have to separate its food waste
In revising waste policies businesses should accommodate guidance on waste hierarchy. When looking at the waste hierarchy, prevention is undoubtedly the ideal. But for hospitality and business not only are there unavoidable food preparation off-cuts, but it also relies on consumers making environmentally conscious decisions about the amount of food they order.
Government guidance is published: Food and drink waste hierarchy: deal with surplus and waste - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Applying the hierarchy - You should deal with your food and drink surplus and waste using the hierarchy’s list of options, where 1 is the best and 8 is the worst. If the first option is not suitable for your business, move down to the next one.
Options 1 to 4 offer you guidance on how to prevent food waste occurring in your business.
Options 5 to 8 are required by law. They tell you how to comply with your statutory waste hierarchy duty, as set out in regulation 12 of the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011.
- Prevent surplus and waste in your business.
- Redistribute surplus food and drink.
- Make animal feed from former food.
- Process surplus food to make biomaterials.
- Recycle - anaerobic digestion and composting.
- Recover waste by landspreading.
- Recover energy from waste.
- Dispose - send to sewer and landfill.
Please also read the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) guidance on applying the waste hierarchy.
Carbon Neutral Claims
The ASA has been reported this week as increasing scrutiny of terms like ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’. The ASA’s CCE project is actively reviewing our approach to these issues, which may lead to further rulings and updates to this guidance.
The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) is to begin stricter enforcement around the use of terms such as “carbon neutral”, “net zero” and “nature positive” as part of a greenwashing crackdown later this year after a six-month review.
i) Don't be misleading
Advertisers should avoid using claims such as “carbon neutral” and “net zero” without any qualification. Advertisements should include information explaining the basis for the claims to help consumers understand them, and such information should therefore not be omitted. Simply using these terms is no longer enough – supporting information is imperative to improve consumer understanding.
ii) Be transparent about offsetting
The ASA found that consumers tended to perceive carbon neutral statements to mean that there has been or will be a complete reduction in carbon emissions, leading to consumers feeling misled if such claims relied on offsetting. Carbon offsetting initiatives are attempts to balance emissions by alternative measures that reduce carbon in the atmosphere by an equivalent amount rather than lowering the carbon emitted. To prevent consumers from mistakenly assuming that products, or their manufacture, generate zero or little emissions, advertisers should take care to give accurate information about whether, and the extent to which, they are actively lowering carbon emissions or are basing claims on offsetting.
Any claims that are based on offsetting should also comply with the usual standards of evidence for objective claims set out in the ASA’s guidance and advertisers should be able to provide information about the offsetting scheme that they are using.
iii) Qualifying information
Where advertisers need to include qualifying information about a claim, they should ensure the information is sufficiently close to the main points of the claim so consumers can easily see it and assess it before they make their decision. If the qualifying information is not prominent and distanced from the main claim being made, it is likely that the claim will mislead consumers.
Two poultry workers have tested positive for bird flu after coming into contact with infected birds on the same farm in England, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
The cases were picked up through a screening programme for people who have come into close contact with the virus, though neither individual suffered symptoms and both have since tested negative.
The two cases are the latest since January 2022 when a person living in the south-west of England was also found to be infected with bird flu. The UKHSA found no evidence of onward transmission from the infected individual.
The agency said the two new cases did not change the level of risk to human health, which remains “very low” for the general population.
Health officials said there were no signs of person-to-person transmission of the virus, which has spread dramatically in wild bird populations and affected other species, but added that contact tracing was being carried out for one of the workers as a precaution.
Chicken factory modern slavery case
A worker pleaded guilty to modern slavery offence after bringing a person from Romania to work at the chicken processing factory in North Wales where he also worked. Nelu Nechita admitted to committing a modern slavery offence by bringing a “vulnerable worker” from Romania to work at the factory and keeping his wages. He would transport him, along with other workers, to and from the factory. The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) said Nechita took control of his victim's bank card and PIN and would regularly withdraw money from ATMs.
Official statistics released this month showed that the number of potential victims of modern slavery was running at record levels from January to March this year.
The government recommends that all businesses should have policies and procedures in place to identify, prevent, and mitigate the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains regardless of turnover. Guidance is provided at transparency in supply chains (publishing.service.gov.uk)
The Modern Slavery Act (MSA 2015) includes a provision for large businesses to publicly state each year the action they have taken to ensure their supply chains, in respect of the provision of goods and services, are slavery free. The Act requires commercial organisations who supply goods or services and have a minimum total turnover of £36 million per year to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement for each