Food and Drink News Dec/Jan 2020

December's news and events in ethical food and drink. Jane Turner rounds off the decade with coverage of animal welfare.

Pigs in Chains

The Farms Not Factories group has just launched a campaign to urge high street food chains to support high welfare pig farms.

Shockingly, it found that 73% of the 60 high street supermarkets and food chains it surveyed sell pork from factory farms.

The vast majority of these don’t offer a single high welfare alternative.

Pigs reared in factory farms (an intensive farming system that is permitted under the Red Tractor labelling scheme) have to endure permanent indoor confinement in barren, overcrowded pens for their entire lives. Sows are kept in narrow metal cages so small they cannot even turn around for weeks on end.

RSPCA Assured, Free Range and Organic all have significantly better standards than the Red Tractor labelling scheme and the minimum UK & EU standards.

Some well known high street chains have already made the switch to one of these high welfare labels. For example, the Co-op only sells Outdoor Bred RSPCA Assured pork throughout their entire own-brand fresh pork range.

Farms Not Factories are calling on people to petition high street food chain and supermarket CEOs, urging them to only source high welfare pork across their entire own brand ranges. They are also calling on the UK government to ban the importation of pork produced in conditions that would be illegal in the UK.

Farms Not Factories are also urging people to only buy RSPCA Assured, Free Range or, best of all, Organic pork. Alternatively, help pigs and the planet by giving up pork altogether.

For a full breakdown of the 60 companies surveyed and to sign the petitions go to the Farms not Factories website.

Companies ranked on human rights

The 2019 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark has just been published and found that most companies are failing to meet basic corporate human rights expectations.

It assessed 200 of the largest publicly traded companies in the world on a set of 100 human rights indicators including forced labour, protecting human rights activists and the living wage.

The average overall score for most companies was 24%. Tech companies averaged just 18%. It was the first year they were featured.

Monster Beverages, Starbucks and Costco are still amongst the poorest performers in the ranking, while Adidas, Rio Tinto, Unilever, M&S and Hewlett Packard are leading their sectors.

There is a growing push by campaign groups, investors and companies themselves for laws to be introduced to enforce mandatory human rights due diligence.

See the Benchmark on the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark website.

Upfield buys Violife vegan cheese

Upfield, the former Unilever spreads business and owner of Flora and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, has bought the best selling vegan cheese brand Violife. Upfield will now enter a sector of the food market with fast growing sales.

Upfield is the first major mainstream company to enter the market.

We’ll be publishing our first ever ethical shopping guide for vegan cheese in mid-February.

Products from Israeli Settlements must be labelled

The European Court of Justice has ruled that products from Israeli Settlements must be labelled as such and said that this decision will allow consumers to make an “informed choice”.

The move from the EU’s top court covers foods produced in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The court stated that such products should be easily identifiable and should not bear the generic ‘Made in Israel’ tag. It stated that without such labelling, consumers had no way of knowing that a product was from “territories in breach of the rules of international humanitarian law”.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the ruling. Its EU director Lotte Leicht said it was “an important step toward EU member states upholding their duty not to participate in the fiction that illegal settlements are part of Israel.”

A letter signed by 13 prominent Israelis also celebrated the ruling but stated that it was “insufficient”. The signatories – who include four former Israeli ambassadors, the former Knesset speaker and the country’s former Attorney General – called for a ban on the import of all settlement products: “By banning goods that originate in Israeli settlements, Europe would help support the differentiation between Israel per se and settlements in the occupied territories.”

It remains unclear how the ruling will be enforced. European retailers would normally be responsible for adding the label, but experts have pointed out that the real origin of produce can often be difficult to identify.

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