MPs have urged government to establish food waste reduction targets at every level of the food supply chain as part of a review into food production and security.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) says that a high dependency on imported fresh food, coupled with failure to act on climate breakdown, is risking national food security.
Its latest report, “Our Planet, Our Health”, considered the effect of environmental damage and climate change on health, food security, life in cities and air quality.
In the UK, food contributes up to 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with food waste totalling 10 million tonnes every year.
The EAC says that in future, extreme temperatures and rising rainfall could increase disease among the UK’s livestock, with crops likely to be hit by more frequent water shortages.
The report accuses government of “complacency” over the risk to food security posed by climate breakdown, particularly in the context of Brexit.
Everything we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. The health of the planet matters because it affects what we eat and whether we can eat in future
The EAC says government should accept advice from the Committee on Climate Change about food security risks and also set out a plan for maintaining UK food security in a changing climate.
It says producing more food in the UK would reduce the current dependency on “a handful of countries”, a situation it described as “risky”.
Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh MP said: “Everything we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. The health of the planet matters because it affects what we eat and whether we can eat in future. Nearly 20% of the UK’s fruit and vegetables come from countries at risk from climate breakdown.
“We are facing a food security crisis, exacerbated by uncertainty over the UK’s future trading position with the EU and the rest of the world. Ministers must now publish all the information they hold from Operation Yellowhammer on food security and likely costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“More people are living in cities at risk from over-heating and water shortages, they’re breathing polluted air, eating more fast food and getting less exercise. What’s needed is a planetary health champion to put this agenda at the heart of government.”
The report recommends government should set annual targets to reduce food waste at every level of the food supply chain, consistent with the aim to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest.
Among its recommendations, it also says that a National Food Council should be established, with policy covering food production, nutrition and public health to share data and expertise.
It says therisks to national food security from importing 40% of the UK’s food should be recognised and it should explore policies to mitigate these risks and “ensure that the UK delivers healthy diets to all income groups, particularly the poorest, especially in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.
The report also calls for “city dwellers” to be given access to healthy, sustainable food and says a “proliferation of fast food outlets has encouraged a culture of unhealthy eating habits”.
It calls for more powers to councils to restrict fast food outlets in areas such as Birmingham where the Committee heard of children passing up to ten fast food outlets on their way to school.
“Better urban planning would also include the provision of more green spaces and active transport networks to encourage more active lifestyles,” it says.