A top U.K. food policy adviser has advocated a comprehensive food labeling program that could help consumers to better understand the environmental, social, and health impacts of their food. Prof. Tim Lang, who popularized the term “food miles”, argues that consumers are confused by conflicting messages about their food. They may be told on on hand, that a certain product has been acquired through free trade and is healthy, and on the other that it consumes large quantities of water and has to travel far. The labels that Lang proposes could change that, using a simple visual to show the product’s sustainability across a number of different categories. Lang admits that the project will be difficult, and specifically notes that gathering an appropriate panel and setting standards will be a big challenge. He also hints that the proposal has received criticism and lack of cooperation from certain departments and scientists who may find this plan to be against the interests of certain powerful stakeholders. However, if this labeling plan proceeds, it could go a long way in terms of raising awareness about sustainability issues, helping consumers make more informed purchasing decisions, and setting a model for other holistic standardization programs aimed at the public market.
Source: Randerson, James. “Government urged to introduce ‘omni-standards’ for food.” guardian.co.uk. Sept. 9, 2008.