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Towards a fair, healthy and sustainable food system with the European Farm to Fork strategy

Towards a fair, healthy and sustainable food system with the European Farm to Fork strategy

The Farm to Fork strategy, designed by the European Commission, intends to create a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system. Despite all existing initiatives of farmers, food manufacturers and retailers to reduce their environmental footprint and seduce consumers to adapting healthy life styles, the European Commission thinks that more needs to be done.

Integrating sustainability into corporate strategies

Farm to Fork covers  four main aspects to create a sustainable food system: production, processing and distribution, consumption and food loss and waste prevention. For food manufacturers and retailers, the plan outlines concrete actions. Integrating sustainability into corporate strategies becomes a requirement. Maximum levels for nutrients like sugar, salt and fat, will be set. Promotions of food high in such unhealthy ingredients will be restricted and regional products need to indicate their origin.

The Commission also intends to harmonise the different voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labelling schemes – like Nutri-Score, the ‘traffic light’-labels and others – into a single European logo to enable consumers to making health-conscious food choices. This logo will become mandatory.

Helpful step towards sustainable supply chains

The European Commission positions Farm to Fork as an ambitious redesign of the European food system. But EuroCommerce, the European organisation for the retail and wholesale sector uses a much more modest qualification. It sees the new strategy as “… A helpful step on the road to sustainable supply chains after covid-19”. EuroCommerce says that Farm to Fork will create an important framework if Europe delivers on two omissions in the current system.

First: the new strategy should deliver a harmonised and science-based approach. Europe is essentially a patchwork of different markets varying in culture, size and sophistication. According to EuroCommerce, such an approach is now lacking in areas like front-of-pack labelling, origin labelling or waste management.

Second: via this strategy, the Commission should deliver further and more precise competition law guidance on cooperation. EuroCommerce supports farmers strengthening their market position by setting up producer organisations. Traditionally, farmers say that they can only invest in sustainable practises when food manufacturers and retailers pay higher prices and margins. This only works via more market-focused farmer collaboration, which should not be frustrated by European competition laws.

Creating consensus and legislative frameworks

Farm to Fork provides a relevant context for the future, the action plan contains a time table of different steps in the 3-4 years to come. But according to the sector, the European food system can only be redesigned if the European Commission creates consensus on actionable definitions and the right legislative framework. This is what farmers, manufacturers and retailers ask for, so they can realise Europe’s ambitions from the Farm right up to the Fork.