A joint report published by sustain and The Food Ethics Council states that food products should contain water footprint information. The water footprint is the amount of water embedded in food products, not the amount of water those products contain. The report says that most consumers have no knowledge or understanding of this concept.
Water scarcity is becoming a big problem across the world. A breathtaking example is that one cup of coffee needs 140 litres of water to produce, and one kilo of beef requires 16,000 litres.
By and large the more expensive the food product, the more water is embedded in it.
As quoted in The Guardian Online, Tom MacMillan, joint author and Director General of The Food Ethics Council said “Public awareness of water scarcity remains low. In the UK, citizens are rarely exposed to the direct effects of severe water shortage and cannot readily see the links between their purchases and water shortage in other countries. Water use is not reflected in the price of the final product.”
MacMillan said the labels would not involve “litres per kilo” stickers, but should reflect the practise of good water stewardship – whether companies are working hard to use water in ways that conserve it, use it efficiently and are environmentally sustainable.
The information could be incorporated into a wider sustainability label that covered fair-trade and the carbon labelling scheme pioneered by the Carbon Trust, he said.
The UK’s high level of water dependency will be questioned separately in a report on food security out tomorrow from the Commons environment, farming and rural affairs committee.
The FEC/Sustain report acknowledges the government’s concern about the issue, and notes that: “Defra is concerned by the high level of UK water dependency both for future UK food security and because of the pressure caused by UK imports on the water resources of other countries.”
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