There have been calls to regulate environmental claims on food products and to simplify labelling, potentially even developing an ‘omni-label’ that covers a range of environmental and sustainability issues, such as carbon, water and biodiversity. While some in the industry are excited by this idea, many are cautious, concerned about the costs, technical feasibility, effectiveness and unintended consequences of such an approach.

The September 2010 meeting of the Business Forum heard from the team at the University of Hertfordshire who have been leading a Defra project to investigate these issues. The project has undertaken the most thorough analysis to date of the pros and cons of environmental labeling for food. The research team have presented their findings to Defra and their report is currently going through the department’s review process prior to publication, so the meeting heard interim findings rather than the final conclusions of the study.

We are very grateful Dr Kathy Lewis and Dr John Tzilivakis, from the Agriculture and Environment Research Unit, University of Hertfordshire, for speaking. The chair was Julia Hailes MBE, sustainability consultant, author of ‘The new green consumer guide’ and member of the FEC.

Read the full report.