The UK's Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Margaret Beckett today announced a joint strategy to improve the food and drink industry's economic, environmental and social performance.

The drive involves the creation of a new body to develop a Food Industry Sustainability Strategy with 'key performance indicators' for food and drink manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and caterers.

The new strategy will tackle issues such as pollution, litter, waste, food miles, transport and energy use.

Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty will chair the new stakeholder group, which will involve a wide range of industry bodies such as the Food and Drink Federation, Federation of Wholesale Distributors, British Retail Consortium and groups such as the National Consumer

The government's Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food, published last December, argued the need for the food and farming industries to work with government to secure a profitable future while contributing to a better environment and improved nutrition and public health.

Beckett said: "Government needs a genuine partnership with industry, one where we collectively agree upon sustainability priorities and how best to tackle them. The development of a Food Industry Sustainability Strategy provides a golden opportunity to forge such a partnership with the food and drink industry.

"I welcome the work of the Food and Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium in developing their own sectoral sustainability strategies, and both have made a useful contribution in encouraging progress. However, more work is necessary to ensure that we build on good practice and ensure that sustainable practices are embedded throughout the food chain."

It is hoped that the Food Industry Sustainability Strategy will be published by the end of this year.