• A POSTnote on resilient food supply chains will explain how new techniques could help track food.
  • Such developments could help consumers, businesses, and policy makers understand the environmental impact of food imports and build more sustainable food systems.
  • In production: To contribute expertise, literature or an external reviewer please email Joseph Llanos.

Food supply chains are complex systems that are intricately linked to the natural and social environment. They are threatened by growing environmental and social pressures, but they can also be key drivers that intensify or mitigate these issues. This briefing will explore how the UK food system interacts with the environment, outline current and emerging innovations aimed at improving the resilience and sustainability of food supply chains and discuss the potential consequences for consumers.

The UK food system is under increasing pressure to maintain continuous and stable food supplies in order to provide for a rising population with shifting dietary patterns. At the same time, food supply chains are threatened by growing environmental pressures including climate change and soil degradation, as well as a multitude of other social and political factors. These pressures can impact on multiple parts of the supply chains, right through from the initial production of food ingredients to the final consumption and disposal of products.

Given the complexity of the food system and the current threats facing it, there has been growing recognition of the need to promote the concept of ‘resilience’ in food supply chains. This can be defined as the ability of food supply chains to maintain normal functioning in the face of the shocks and stresses that may be acting upon them. Reducing the negative impacts that food supply chains have on the environment is also important for the long-term resilience and integrity of the food system.

In the unveiling of the new Agriculture Bill, the Government has expressed a desire to open food supply chains to greater scrutiny and to harness the information available to aid in resilience planning. Alongside other measures to improve resilience, doing so could advance the transition to a lower impact, more sustainable food system and help consumers make informed choices about the food they eat.

The aims of this POSTnote are to provide MPs and Peers with an overview setting out what food system resilience means. It will consider how food supply chains affect and are affected by key environmental and social pressures to promote resilience and reduce negative impacts. What information could be harnessed from food supply chains to promote resilience and reduce negative impacts.

It will examine what current and incoming technologies could be utilised to improve supply chain transparency and resilience. It will also look at how new information could be conveyed to consumers, businesses and policy makers to aid the transition to a more sustainable food system.