7 August 1998

Growers say British fruit cuts pollution

FRUIT growers have condemned supermarkets for buying in too much foreign produce and causing environmental pollution distributing what they sell.

And the growers have devised a plan to label fresh produce with what they call a "pollution factor", to tell shoppers where the food comes from and details of the fuel used to transport it to the shops.

Kent farmer John Breach, Whittenden Orchards, Staplehurst, who proposed the pollution factor, said: "The idea of this is to reduce pollution. Shoppers can see at a glance whether a product has a pollution factor then they can make a choice."

In his system, UK products are automatically given a pollution factor of one. The more air, sea, rail and road travel involved – the higher the pollution factor. He insisted it would be better for the supermarkets to draw to consum-ers attention to the extra harm done to the environment by, for example, buying strawberries from California instead of Britain.

"It has been reported that 2.5 litres of aviation fuel are used to bring one pound of Californian strawberries to Britain," Mr Breach said. The other main pollution culprits include mange tout and beans from Zimbabwe, both with pollution factors of 200, and apples and onions from New Zealand.

He has written to the Prime Minister, all MPs, EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler and the leaders of farming and food bodies, seeking support for the initiative.

But the idea has been dismissed as unnecessary by supermarkets.

John Morris, of the British Retail Consortium, said there was no need to confuse shoppers with even more labels. "It is law to have the country of origin clearly labelled on the product. Customers can see where the products come from and can work it out for themselves." &#42

Kent farmer John Breach wants pollution factors highlighted on produce.