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Supermarkets and restaurants should have healthy food targets, says food charity

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Supermarkets and restaurants should have healthy food targets, says food charity

Governments should place an obligation on supermarkets and major food companies to report what percentage of sales come from healthy and sustainable food, a charity has said.

A new report from the Food Foundation found just four of the eleven supermarkets it looked at had targets in place for the percentage sale of healthier options.

In addition, of the major restaurants and caterers investigated only 20 per cent has published such targets.

The charity is now calling for evidence-based assessment of food targets relating to health and sustainability issues, including nutrition, action on climate change and food waste.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation said: “The challenges we face are formidable and understanding the progress food companies are making and what targets they are setting is key. 

“We need clear direction from both investors and government to demand that companies report on these metrics if we are to see lasting change and if those companies with more ambitious health and sustainability commitments are to flourish.”

The analysis found while supermarkets tended to perform well on the setting of targets around biodiversity, reducing plastic and climate change, many of them failed to take action on encouraging healthy diets.

Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer’s were considered industry leaders for having targets on the percentage of food sales or baskets that come from healthy food, while Lidl also reported a 20 per cent increase in sales of fruit and vegetables between 2017 and 2019.

However, the Food Foundation said there needed to be greater transparency around how businesses defined healthy food across the sector.

Nilani Sritharan, the healthy living manager at Sainsbury’s, said: “There are several elements which may help to build the business case to accelerate change.  Firstly, by increasing customer demand and customer awareness about the impact of their purchasing choices, e.g. through labelling. 

“Secondly, better data and better infrastructure for the sharing of that data across the food system will help us make more informed decisions right across the food chain. 

“Both of these aspects can help improve the quality of the evidence around the behaviours we really need to drive, considering the interconnectivity of sustainability issues.”

Meanwhile, the majority of companies in the catering and restaurant sectors examined failed to have any targets on sourcing from producers with sustainable agriculturl practices, nor did they have clear strategies in place for promoting healthy diets.

The charity expressed concern that the sector’s recovery from the global pandemic could mean health and sustainability priorities could be put on hold – but it urged companies to use the opportunity to accelerate change.

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