Celebrated food critic and author Jay Rayner joined international academics and social activists to call for more action from industry leaders to help the public to make more informed choices about their diets and reduce food waste, following warnings that the future of global food supply is under threat.
The Guardian/Observer writer was joined by some of the brightest minds in food and health to discuss the challenges facing the future of food systems, as part of an international drive to create a unified voice across the food sector.
He chaired a panel of academics which also included Adam Smith, founder of the award winning The Real Junk Food project at the ESRC funded Food Option, Opinions and Decisions (FOOD) seminar at the University of Leeds. The event attracted more than 90 delegates from the food industry, social enterprises, local government and universities to discuss ‘The Future of Food’.
Jay Rayner said: “By bringing together academics and experts from so many disciplines the ESRC seminar did a brilliant job of shining a light on the worrying complexity of modern global food systems. Tackling the many issues raised, including the obesity epidemic and the stress on global resources, is without doubt one of the great challenges of the 21 Century.”
“It’s clear that the solutions begin with giving consumers access to all the facts so they can make informed decisions and begin to shift their diets away from reliance on animal proteins and carbohydrates and towards something a little more plant based.”
The panel addressed some of the key issues facing the food industry, which has been criticised for overloading the public with potentially contradictory information on nutrition, food safety and waste.
Adam Smith, who has pioneered the global network of pay-as-you-feel cafés and Fuel for School, transforming surplus edible food that would otherwise be destined for waste into nutritious meals told the panel about his fight against the UK’s growing problem with food waste, which amounts to seven million tonnes each year, 4.2 million of which is deemed preventable.
Approaching the issue from an international perspective, Professor Tim Benton, Dean of Strategic Initiatives at the University of Leeds, spoke of his concerns for the future of global food supply.
He warned that the world’s food supply chain is no longer sustainable and that the global demand for meat cannot be maintained, with changes towards a more plant-based diet being inevitable in the future.
Professor Louise Dye, University of Leeds, N8 AgriFood chair of Nutrition and Behaviour, an expert in the relationship between food, health and behaviour, said that the momentum gained through the discussion must not be lost.
She said: “The seminar generated significant and important conversations around the future of the world’s food supply. We were delighted to welcome Jay Rayner to chair the panel, who injected both refreshing insight and humour into the discussions, by drawing on his personal experiences in the food industry.
“The key message that resonated was that the industry must play a bigger role in helping the public to make more informed choices in their diets. Global food systems are under more pressure than ever before and it’s vital that we work together.
“The ESRC FOOD seminar series has built up great momentum and the focus now should be to ensure that we can continue to build on this for the future via our planned N8 seminar series aimed at postgraduates and early career researchers, who are the next generation and will tackle the consequences of our current food choice and waste crisis.”
The panel also featured Professor Hannelore Daniel of the Technical University of Munich and PI for the seminar series Professor Wandi Bruine de Bruin, University of Leeds.
The event was the ninth and final seminar in the ESRC-funded FOOD series, formed in partnership with the Food Standards Agency and the Waste and Resources Action Programme.
The series was focused on informing future research by identifying strategies to help consumers make nutritious food choices that will improve food safety and reduce food waste.