Fairtrade Fortnight – the ethics of food

Do you think about where your food comes from and how it is produced?  You may be concerned about the environmental impact of your foods either the production methods or the air miles clocked up by flying in French beans from Kenya.  Have you thought about who is working in food production and their working conditions, overseas and in this country?  What about the ethics of food waste?

There are lots of questions when you look into the ethics of food, and the environmental sustainability of some of the farming techniques.

There is a lot in the media about sustainable foodstuffs and the ethics of how base ingredients are grown and harvested.   Recently, advertisers have been using dramatic images showing deforestation and the impact on orangutans to source palm oil.  The same level of deforestation happens with soya production, most of which is used for animal feed – but we don’t see that on TV.

We are even less likely to see pictures of the children who are working in cocoa farms in West Africa in the chocolate supply chain to make your favourite treat.  Thankfully, a number of the chocolate companies are finally looking at their supply chains, but not all, so look out for the Fairtrade, Utz and Rainforest Alliance logos or their own accreditation.  Agriculture, fishing and food production are prone to poor working conditions and even modern day slavery, with workers having few or no rights – even in this country.

Even if we started to understand the seasonality of food and start buying and cooking with local and seasonal produce, rather than buying strawberries at Christmas, we will be lessening the impact on the environment.  But importantly we will start to eat foods that still contain the nutritional value that we need, which is surely the point of it at all.

It’s almost too much to take in, and buying ethically sourced food has a price.  There is hope!  There are now many more products available in mainstream shops that are classified as ethically sourced from tea to fabrics to gold.

The Fairtrade mark is the most famous and longest lived ethical brand, and ensures producers get a fair wage for their products and improving working conditions.  It is Fairtrade Fortnight from 25 February to 10 March which is designed to raise awareness of ethical food production.  There are others ethical marks out there such as Utz and Rainforest Alliance.  The major supermarket chains have understood their customers’ concerns about the ethics and sustainability of food and are taking a serious look at their supply chain to work with their suppliers to improve working conditions.

Click here for a delicious Fairtrade Gingerbread recipe

For more information:
Fairtrade Foundation
UTZ and Rainforest Alliance