Lecture confirms organic food's mainstream status

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic food

The UK's 2007 City Food Lecture, sponsored for the first time by
the FSA, will be given by Lord Peter Melchett of the Soil
Association and will be on the subject of organic food.

The FSA (food standards agency)'s Deirdre Hutton will chair proceedings. Following the lecture, a panel of experts will debate with the audience the issues raised by Melchett.

"We are extremely pleased to announce that Peter Melchett will be the keynote speaker at the 2007 City Food Lecture,"​ said Hutton.

"Sales of organic food are growing rapidly and this will be a chance to debate the significance of its increasing popularity. The City Food Lecture is an excellent opportunity to bring together representatives from the various interest groups for an open, lively and challenging debate about organic food."

Organic food is no longer a niche segment of the food market. Although the Soil Association estimates that just less than four per cent of UK farmland is managed organically, organic food and drink sales grew by 11 per cent in 2004.

In addition, a recent Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (OMSC) report said that Britons spent a collective 1.25bn on organic food in 2005, a far cry from the 100m in sales made by the sector a decade ago. The UK was Europe's fourth largest organic food market in 2003, behind Italy, Germany and Spain, according to research group Organic Monitor.

Consumer awareness of organic food, informed often by health scares concerning conventional food, is therefore clearly growing - and so is food industry awareness of the potential profits to be made. Inevitably therefore, the sector has become big business, and has begun to attract criticism.

Last year, Tesco, Asda and Morrison's were criticised when it was discovered that they were importing huge amounts of organic pork and beef, rather than sourcing it locally. The FSA has also been working on the development of new testing methods for organic food following allegations that some suppliers have also been involved in fraud.

There is therefore a danger that unless governments and supermarkets take action, consumers could become just as distrustful of food labelled as organic as they are with conventional food. Recent publicity surrounding the food miles issue has marred the reputation of the top four UK supermarkets.

The City Food Lecture was initiated six years ago by the seven city livery companies involved in the food industry - the bakers, butchers, cooks, farmers, fishmongers, fruiterers and poulters. The annual event attracts an audience of 600 top food and drink figures from across the UK and will take place on the evening of 23 January 2007 at the Guildhall in the City of London.

"Peter Melchett's acceptance to speak at the 2007 City Food Lecture continues the tradition, since the inaugural lecture in 2000, of attracting very senior figures from the food industry to address us on highly topical issues,"​ said Laurence Olins, chairman of the 2007 organising committee.

"'The sponsoring Livery companies are delighted that our partnership with the FSA has brought such an excellent result."

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