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Is our mainstream food sector one giant magic trick? Many will claim it is indeed miraculous that such a staggering range of food is available every day on our supermarket shelves, on café and restaurant menus – and is even able to be delivered to our doors in a matter of minutes. You can see the marketing slogan already: ‘Taste the magic’.

Yet the magic has a dark side. The sleight of hand being performed by parts of the industry is obscuring the dirty, hidden costs – distracting people with the glitzy allure of choice and abundance, alongside sometimes tokenistic gestures of sustainability and social responsibility.

What’s hiding behind the smokescreen? Let’s take one example: the exploitation of labour. Parts of the food industry are not enticing places to work. To counter that, the approach to date has been to bring in migrant workers and others to ‘take the opportunities available’ – often to be exploited.

The new Walk Free Global Slavery Index estimates there are 122,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK – including forced labour in farming, manufacturing and hospitality – and that modern slaves are, disturbingly, ‘hidden in plain sight’.

Some migrant workers in the government’s seasonal worker visa scheme are facing abuse. Walk Free cites examples of Nepali and Indonesian migrant workers being exploited as they try to secure jobs on fruit farms. We need to encourage a new generation of food and farm workers. Poorly paid, opaque sectors are never going to be attractive places to work.

Food businesses shouldn’t pretend to be something they’re not, including that they’re squeaky clean. Tell it like it is.

We need greater visibility of the realities behind food production, manufacture and sale – the hidden costs behind the ‘magic’. What can an individual business do? Be honest, spotlight the problem and then start to act on it. Any food companies hiding in the murky, opaque middle will surely be found out. The skeletons must come out of the closet. We need a new ‘warts and all’ era in the food sector.

How to nurture a culture of transparency? Open up and invite the public in. Openness and inquisitiveness are healthy. They breed new ideas and build trust. Inviting in the public allows for ‘naïve questioning’ that often results in new, innovative approaches.

That’s partly why I’m a fan of Open Farm Sunday. Why don’t food manufacturers and others in the sector throw open their doors to the public once a year, as part of a broader push for honesty, transparency, trust and fresh thinking? Is it time for Open Food Factory Friday? Of course, that alone won’t solve huge challenges and injustices like modern slavery. But it would be a refreshing place to start.

Ask your harshest critic. If you’re a livestock farmer, that might be a vegan activist. If you work for a food company (which is reasonably likely if you’re reading this), it might be a healthy food campaigner. Or it might even be your partner or spouse.

I heard a story recently of how a farmer who had farmed a certain way for many years changed overnight because their partner, who came from a non-farming background, challenged them on why they were doing what they were doing. On reflection, the farmer thought it was a good question, experimented with a new approach and hasn’t looked back since.

Don’t be under the illusion that sweeping things under the carpet will mean they disappear. Be open and honest about what you’re doing and why, and crucially what you’re not doing. Others will appreciate – and learn from – your honesty. I’m a firm believer that the public prefer transparency to trickery and deception.