TALLINN - Responsible and sustainable food production is becoming increasingly important for the food industry as well as for consumers, Estonian Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse said at the opening of this year's Food Industry Week.
The traditional Food Industry Week, which sees Estonian food producers introduce their daily work to consumers, started on Monday, Oct. 31. The event is held virtually once more this year and the focus of the week is on sustainable food production and food system, where the consumer also has a role, spokespeople for the Ministry of Rural Affairs said.
Kruuse said that food systems across the world need to be reorganized due to growth in the global population. In this context, continued food waste, unhealthy eating habits and increasing greenhouse gas emissions in food systems are becoming acute problems.
"It is crucial that people should pay more attention to care for the environment and health care as well as to social and ethical issues. Even with societies becoming increasingly urbanized, people want to feel proximity to their food. They want fresh food that is produced sustainably. I want to thank all the entrepreneurs taking part in the Food Industry Week and giving an overview of their progress towards more sustainable food production," the minister said.
Sirje Potisepp, head of the Estonian Food Industry Association, said that food industries have a crucial role in the food system because their activities determine the composition of the food but also its marketing and advertising, which shape consumer awareness and eating habits.
"Our food industries have been great frontrunners for sustainability by constantly making their production processes, recipes and packaging more environmentally friendly," she said.
Estonian food industries have developed and introduced a self-regulation mechanism aimed at sustainable production, which is based on the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy.
Potisepp added that food industries are working hard to raise consumer awareness and change their habits.
"We're teaching people how to correctly sort their municipal waste and we have reduced the content of added sugar and salt in our products as well as replaced trans-fatty acids and synthetic additives with natural alternatives. In our awareness raising efforts, we underscore the importance of a balanced diet and provide other recommendations geared at sustainability. Our industries closely cooperate with researchers to create innovative packaging solutions and update product recipes," Potisepp noted.
The Food Industry Week, organized at the initiative of the Ministry of Rural Affairs and the Estonian Food Industry Association, takes place for the seventh time and runs from Oct. 31 through Nov. 6. Participants in this year's event include 15 food industries that have actively contributed in recent years to creating a sustainable food system and making their production processes more sustainable.
During the current budgetary period, the Ministry of Rural Affairs has earmarked some 66 million euros for investments in the production of products with higher added value. Disbursement decisions have been made to the tune of 64.8 million euros. The money has been used to support investments by 150 different food industry sectors.
The Food Industry Week is supported from the Estonian Rural Development Plan for 2014-2020 and from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.