FDF warns of challenges to the food industry

Posted by Isobel Drake on 15th May 2008

The issues of food and health, the environment and food inflation formed the core themes of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) President’s speech at the recent FDF President’s Dinner held at the Waldorf Hotel in London.

Iain Ferguson, the President of the FDF, highlighted the ongoing challenges currently facing the food and drink manufacturing sector particularly: food labelling, reformulation, environmental best practice, and the new demands put on our food supply.

With regard to health, Mr Ferguson was keen to stress the point that the industry has been working hard to address health concerns but noted that the debate over health and wellbeing would continue. “FDF members have been working on a far-reaching health and wellbeing action plan since 2004,” he said. “And, as a result, our industry is now widely recognised as leading the world in areas such as reformulation, labelling and workplace wellbeing.”

Mr Ferguson also stressed the importance of the environment and sustainability, as the debate increasingly becomes topical in the media and with governments. “As the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK, we have a responsibility to provide leadership in these areas,” he claimed. “Together we can make a real difference to the environment by focusing on five areas where our industry can have maximum impact: CO2 emissions, landfill, packaging waste, water use and food transport miles. Our five aspirations are ambitious, but already many members have taken bold steps to start turning them into a reality.”

Finally, food inflation was considered a cause of concern by the FDF and it was suggested that greater debate be initiated over the potential of GM food production.
“In the wider world, strong demand from emerging markets, changing dietary patterns in China and India, new crop uses such as biofuels, and tumbling inventories have combined to cause the resurgence of food inflation. The World Bank estimates that global food prices have soared by 83% in the last three years” he said. “We have to face up to the issue of genetic modification and as an industry we have to rise to the challenge of helping to foster a fair and scientific debate on an issue that has typically been clouded by suspicion and a lack of trust.”

“We need to work together through the supply chain – government, farmers, food processors and retailers – to overcome this challenge and, most of all, to give consumers a reason to trust us and open up the debate. The current economic climate with rising food prices and concerns over food security and the long term availability of commodities may well give us the opportunity to start this process.”