Global food system ‘is not sustainable’

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Tasty savings: the Forgotten Feast was created from unwanted food
Tasty savings: the Forgotten Feast was created from unwanted food

Related tags: Food supply chain, Food, Food security

The world faces devastating climate change consequences, unless we radically alter our food system, a leading environmentalist has warned.

“Our global diet is not sustainable on a health basis,”​ Tim Benton, professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds and champion for the UK’s Global Food Security Programme told delegates at the Institute of Food Science & Technology’s (IFST’s) spring conference last month.

“Sustainability is about maintaining ecosystems – including climate – at a landscape scale appropriate to place, societal needs and ethical values.”

While calling for global demand for food to be reduced, and for people to eat less meat, he claimed that just 41% of the world's food was produced efficiently.

‘The Forgotten Feast’

He said cheap food encouraged food waste, a theme picked up in the conference dinner the evening before. Called ‘The Forgotten Feast’, delegates were fed a meal largely created from “unwanted food”​ –ingredients that would otherwise have been thrown away.

The Forgotten Feast was cooked using food provided by FareShare, the leading UK charity that redistributes unwanted food from the food supply chain to more than 2,000 charities and community groups. It was prepared by chefs at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, who didn’t know the exact ingredients they’d be working with until a few days before the dinner. It was hosted at the same venue as the conference.

‘Rescued from waste’

“People often make assumptions about surplus food that has been rescued from waste, but the food that FareShare redistributes is in date and good to eat – and the positive response from IFST members who enjoyed their meal is testament to that,”​ said Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare.

“With an estimated 3.9Mt of food waste coming from the UK food and drink industry, IFST decided to set itself the challenge of developing a top-class, three-course meal,” ​explained Jon Poole, IFST chief executive. “We wanted to prove that it is entirely possible to turn an environmental problem into a social solution.”

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