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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
'Cut emissions' food trade urged
M-way jam (BBC)
The industry is urged to make basic changes to energy use
The food industry in England has been urged to reduce carbon emissions and waste to cut environmental damage.

Retailers could play a "crucial" role by making transportation more efficient, says the government's Food Industry Sustainability Strategy.

It wants to see between a 10 and 25% reduction in water use by 2010.

Friends of the Earth welcomed the call but suggested problems stemming from a global pressure to produce cheap food were not being properly addressed.

The strategy has been developed since 2002 by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in consultation with food trade figures.

Defra said retailers should "demonstrate their commitment" to locally sourced produce and aim to reduce packaging.

It said simple measures such as roof insulation, timers and daylight-sensitive lighting in factories could reduce energy consumption.

An internet-based service may be set up to give consumers advice on the sustainability impact of their shopping purchases.

Rising energy and water prices, not to mention the increasingly self-evident consequences of climate change, are timely reminders of the need for action
Margaret Beckett, Environment Minister

In broader terms, Defra says the UK food and drink industry accounted for 11% of the country's energy consumption, excluding transport, in 2002.

It was a "major contributor" to carbon emissions and called for a 20% reduction by 2010, compared to 1990 levels.

It wants the industry's water use to decrease by 10 to 15% by 2010 and in the south east of England by between 20 and 25%.

Manufacturers should aim to cut the amount of food and other waste they produce by 15-20% by 2010, it said.

"As an industry the food sector has a significant role to play in achieving a sustainable future for this country," said Environment Minister Margaret Beckett.

"Rising energy and water prices, not to mention the increasingly self-evident consequences of climate change, are timely reminders of the need for action."

The strategy also addresses health and safety and equal opportunity issues. It aims to encourage the doubling of food in supermarkets covered by ethical trading schemes by 2008.

Melanie Leech, director general of industry body the Food and Drink Federation, said the importance of the strategy was "long recognised" and it "marks an important milestone towards a joined-up approach across the food chain".

Friends of the Earth said the strategy was a "weak response to the very significant environmental, social and health problems caused by the food industry".

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