United for a responsible food industry – On Monday, the European Commission, along with 65 companies and organisations (26 food manufacturers, 14 food retailers, one from the food service sector, 24 associations) launched an EU ‘Code of Conduct’. It aims to be a landmark of the European long-term strategic vision to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume food.
It is an important chapter within the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy, which aims to translate the green transition into concrete actions for the food system, at every step of the chain.
“We need to make our food system sustainable, and we need to do it soon,” says Executive Vice-President of the European CommissionFrans Timmermans. “We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt biodiversity loss related to food production and shape a food system that makes it easier to choose a healthy and sustainable diet.”
The ‘Code of Conduct’ contains a series of voluntary commitments for all parties involved, from the ‘farm to the fork’ (such as food producers, food operators and retailers) and can promote the shift towards healthier patterns for consumers and eco-friendly production methods for the environment.
Examples of those commitments for the companies include sustainable sourcing, improved animal welfare, sugar reduction and cutting greenhouse gas.
Partnership with the food industry will be essential for the next steps on this sustainable path.
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, says: “Close cooperation between all actors is essential to achieve a successful transition to sustainable food systems. The EU Code of Conduct will facilitate this cooperation, building on the commitments the food industry has already made and encouraging more ambitious action. The European food industry is already known for the quality and safety of its products. It should now also become the golden standard for sustainability.”
Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, underlines that: “Forward-looking food companies know that healthy soils and ecosystems are essential for the resilience of our food systems, and for their business. Through this Code, the food industry is taking a decisive step towards a sustainable future for their business and for our planet.”
The EU initiative marks the beginning of a dynamic process that should generate more commitments, partnerships, and interaction. Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestlé, stated that the new vision aims to promote “trust with the public and a healthy sense of competition on the market”.
EU associations should report on progress on a yearly basis, if they are insufficient the Commission could consider legislative measures to back them.
Milka Sokolovic, Director General of the NGO European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), points out that: “In order to enable an effective and equitable transition towards sustainable and healthy food systems, regulatory measures that set common rules for all should be the main drivers of change.
“Voluntary initiatives like the Code of Conduct can certainly be helpful, but they must not be relied upon as the sole or main drivers of change, as an alternative to binding measures.”
More EU associations and companies in the food sector are invited to join the Code of Conduct – an initiative that Commission perceives as a gamechanger.
The EU Commission will present the Code at the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit later this year.