The government agency announced that an agreement was made at its September board meeting to take sustainable development into account in all its activities and policy decisions.
Sustainable development has become a major theme in the food industry, affecting government policies worldwide, food manufacturers and retailers, all the way down to the conscientious consumer wishing to purchase ecologically-sound products.
The wider impact
The agency acknowledges that in light of the new approach it may have to reconsider some of its previous policies and advice.
For example, it currently advises consumers to eat two portions of fish each week, one of which should be oily. It states that when this policy was made, the environmental, wider social and economic sustainability of this advice was not taken into account.
“Taking a sustainability approach involves considering not just the nutrition and safety evidence, but also wider sustainability issues such as fish stocks and the environmental impacts of fishing and fish farming,” it said.
The FSA also gives the example of the perceived health benefits of reducing meat and dairy consumption. Following a sustainable policy will entail taking into consideration the economic impact of nationwide reduced consumption, as well as possible biodiversity changes resulting from decreased numbers of livestock.
Such considerations, says the FSA, will lead to more cross-government working. With so many factors to be taken into account, any new policy or advice released by the FSA would have to be examined across a range of departments and agencies.
The FSA’s new policy forms part of a UK government-wide strategy on sustainable development “to allow people all over the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better life, without compromising the quality of life of future generations”.
These two aims, together with the ‘three pillars’ of sustainable development – economic development, social progress and environmental protection – make up the government’s ‘five principles’ of sustainable development.
Under its new approach, the FSA will make all its decisions according to sustainability “unless there are exceptional reasons for doing otherwise. In these cases the reasons will be clearly communicated and efforts made to reduce negative impacts”.
However, the FSA makes it clear that its role has not changed. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and its associated agencies will remain responsible for sustainable food production and consumption. The FSA said in the draft statement on its new approach that it will simply “deliver [its] statutory remit, whilst seeking ways to maximise positive impacts in all areas of sustainable development”.