Ethics group challenges business and government to make food fairer

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food Sustainability Food security

Ethics group challenges business and government to make food fairer
The Food Ethics Council (FEC) has published a set of recommendations to improve social justice, after its year-long Food and Fairness Inquiry. The next step involves spreading the word stimulating debate with business and government policy-makers.

The Food and Fairness Inquiry was launched by the FEC in August 2009 to seek evidence on how fair the food system is and to remedy the relative neglect of social justice issues in public debate about food.

It held a number of three hearings, calling on witnesses for fairness issues and opening up the floor to contributions. The 14-strong committee, made up of leading figures at organisations involved in the food system, then deliberated on the evidence before compiling the final report, Food Justice: The report of the Food and Fairness Inquiry​, and making 12 recommendations for action.

After deliberating on the evidence and the discussions at the hearings, the committee will put together a report that will make recommendations for food producers, retailers and policy-makers.

The recommendations

These include promoting international efforts to strengthen regulation against speculation in the food markets to help protect against food price volatility; setting benefits and minimum wage levels to ensure a minimum standard of living, including food and dietary intake, as defined by members of the public; and reinforcing measures such as training support to improve health and safety through the food chain.

There is also an emphasis on ensuring that publically-procured food, for consumption in hospitals, schools and prisons, is produced fairly and sustainably and serves the health interests of those who eat it.

With input from the Office of Fair Training and consumer groups, a need is identified for publicly accountable mechanisms whereby businesses can collaborate to make progress on sustainability that is in the public interest.

Both businesses and government should identify and support fair models of investment as a key plank in their sustainability strategies; and businesses should, in their Corporate Social Responsibility Reports, state their tax payments as share of turnover for each country in which they operate.

The full report with all 12 recommendations is available online here available here​.


Over the coming months the council will be going out to speak to government ministers about the recommendations, the FEC’s Liz Barling told

It will also hold a series of round table events in the autumn to talk about the issues, and will be looking to its existing network, which includes the Food and Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium, to help spread the word to food businesses.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the FDF, said: “Over the past five years I’ve seen more and more food businesses squaring up to the challenges facing the food system. We all want to make a real difference to enhance people’s lives and contribute to the future of our people and planet. This Inquiry has shown that what unites us should – and can – outweigh our differences. Together we can make a fairer food system.”

Helen Browning, who chaired the inquiry, admitted that the process of developing the recommendations between a diverse group of members has been testing, “but we’ve emerged with a common understanding of how deeply injustice runs in food and farming”.

The success so far gives confidence in the face of “formidable” ​challenges ahead in meeting the recommendations.

“The recommendations in our report are realistic and practical, and will represent real progress towards a fairer food system,”​ Browning said.

As well as targeting the UK government, which has signalled a shift in food policy recently with the reassignment of public health aspects from the Food Safety Authority to Defra, the council will also be communicating internationally.

“It’s about international food security,”​ said Barling, “and the UK government taking the lead in international and EU trade agreements”.

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