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Food and drink news Jan/Feb 2021

All the latest news and events in the field of food and drink with regard to ethical consumption.

The Dirty Dozen

Pesticides used in agriculture can often leave detectable traces of chemicals in, or on, our food known as ‘residues’. Crops are not sprayed just once during a growing season; multiple applications of different pesticides can be applied – as many as 20 different chemicals can be applied to winter wheat for example.

Pesticides Action Network has analysed government data on residues on fruit and veg and has come up with a dirty dozen list – 12 fruits to avoid as a top priority if you can’t access a fully organic diet.

It lists the ‘dirtiest’ fruit and vegetables based on what percentage of samples revealed residues of more than one pesticide. Our regulatory system is only set up to assess the safety of one pesticide at a time, and so misses what is often called ‘the cocktail effect’.

More details from

Organic food sales boom during lockdown

According to the Soil Association, sales of organic food and drink grew by 6.1% – almost double the 3.2% growth of non-organic food and drink products – in the year ending May 2020.

It also reported an 18.7% increase in organic sales in the 12 weeks to the end of May – which included 10 weeks of lockdown – compared with a 14.2% increase in non-organic equivalents.

“Organic farming is a whole-system approach that nurtures the soil, biodiversity and our planet,” said Louisa Pharoah of the Soil Association.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has meant more people appreciate where food comes from and, with the increased interest in growing veg in our gardens and home baking, there’s never been a better time to talk to people about the benefits of organic farming.”

Beer and biscuit news

Fox’s biscuits has just been bought by chocolate company Ferrero. It used to score 8.5 but that now drops to 5. See our guide to chocolate for more like this.

Beer company Greene King is now owned by Hong Kong’s richest family, CKA Group, which already owns Superdrug and mobile operator Three. It also owns 20% of rolling stock firm UK Rail, 16% of Northumbrian Water and 12% of Wales and West Gas Networks. Greene King’s score drops from 5.5 to 1.

Greene King is one of the companies that pledged to make slave trade reparations in June to address their founders’ roles in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Records archived by researchers at University College London (UCL) show that one of Greene King’s founders, Benjamin Greene, held at least 231 human beings in slavery and became an enthusiastic supporter of the practice. Greene was given the equivalent of about £500,000 at today’s rate in compensation when he surrendered rights to plantations in Montserrat and Saint Kitts when slavery was abolished in the British empire in 1833.

Greene King’s sale follows Fuller’s and craft brewer Meantime having been bought by Japanese drinks giant Asahi.

Other craft brewers have also proved attractive to multinationals – AB Inbev, which supplies nearly a third of the world’s beer, bought London brewer Camden Town. Carlsberg bought London Fields brewery whilst Heineken bought a stake in Beavertown.

Meanwhile, Kirin Ichiban lager is on the Burma Campaign’s boycott list for being in business with the Burmese military which is facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice.

Who’s eating all the soya?

According to Greenpeace, soya represents 47% of Europe’s deforestation footprint. It’s a leading driver of deforestation in South America and is linked to violence and human rights abuses of local communities. But there are a lot of misconceptions about who’s eating all this soya.

According to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2019.  Vegans and vegetarians are being blamed more often because they appear to consume more soya than your average meat eater. But only 6% of soya grown globally was for human consumption.

Watch the video below which shines a spotlight on how industrial meat is the biggest threat to the world’s forest:

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