Commission launches plans for EU sustainability ‘code of conduct’ for food businesses

The code aims to facilitate sustainable practices by all relevant actors in the food system and make it easier for consumers to choose healthy and sustainable diets. [SHUTTERSTOCK]

The European Commission has taken its first steps towards launching a ‘code of conduct’ for actors along the food chain, as part of its aim to increase the sustainability of the food system.

The code aims to facilitate sustainable practices by all relevant actors in the food system and make it easier for consumers to choose healthy and sustainable diets.

It would cover all major aspects of food systems’ sustainability, including economic, social, and environmental, and reflect the goals and ambitions of the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork Strategy, which lies at the heart of the European Green Deal.

The code specifically aims to target businesses that lie ‘between the farm and the fork’, including food processors, hospitality and food service operators and retailers, working with them to pave the way towards more accessible healthy, sustainable food options.

It is expected to be ready for signature by stakeholders, including retailers and food service industry, in June 2021.

As part of the development of the code, the Commission launched discussions with stakeholders at a virtual event on Tuesday (26 January), attended by Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans and health and food safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

Commissioner Kyriakides said the code of conduct will be a “first significant signal from food industry, retail and hospitality companies, working together to ensure sustainable practices in the food value chain.”

From surviving to thriving: preparing for the future of the hospitality sector

From restaurant closures to travel restrictions, the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID pandemic that is threatening thousands of jobs and livelihoods across the EU.

But as the rollout of the COVID vaccine gets underway, …

The launch of the discussions was widely welcomed by stakeholders in the food chain, who highlighted the potential of the sector to contribute to the improved sustainability of the food chain.

Welcoming the opportunity to develop the code alongside the Commission, Christian Verschueren, director-general of food retailers lobby EuroCommerce, said he hoped that this would motivate as many actors as possible to join in.

“This initiative is an opportunity for our sector to highlight and further develop the many sustainability initiatives our members have engaged in all across Europe and over many years”.

However, he warned that the code will only be successful provided that all parts of the supply chain and public authorities work together.

Todor Ivanov, secretary-general of Euro Coop, the EU voice of consumer co-operatives, stressed that consumer co-operatives are “ready to work with the EU policymakers to make this code a reality,” stressing that “sustainable food should not be a privilege for the few”.

However, the EU food policy coalition, who works to facilitate the transition to sustainable food systems at the EU level, warned that this code of conduct needs go beyond paying lip service to sustainability goals. 

“Self-regulation is not enough: this code should be accompanied by binding targets and measures to discourage non-compliance,” the coalition tweeted

Schmit: Recovery fund key to get hospitality sector back on its feet

Placing the hospitality and tourism sectors at the heart of national recovery and resilience plans will be essential, the EU commissioner for jobs and social rights, Nicolas Schmit, told EURACTIV.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

Subscribe to our newsletters