13 June 2022
The White Paper outlining the Government Food Strategy, that has been published today, is not quite the integrated strategy that we were anticipating. However we welcome the focus on the food supply system by Defra and the recognition of the inter-relationship between the food environment and health. This highlights the important role of the food chain, including the food industry, in helping to alleviate health inequalities. We look forward to more clarity on the approach to tackle diet and health issues within the Health Disparities White Paper and through other government initiatives.
In response to the recommendations made within Part 2 of the National Food Strategy (NFS) – the comprehensive independent review of England’s food chain from field to fork, led by Henry Dimbleby1 - this Food Strategy has identified three key areas as priorities: (1) food security and sustainable production, (2) healthier and sustainable eating and (3) the UK as part of a global food system. It has set out key new measures and proposals in relation to these priorities.
We strongly welcome the launch of a Food Data Transparency Partnership as a multi-sector approach that will bring together the UK Government, Devolved Administrations and representatives from across the food supply chain and society to develop a robust data collection and reporting framework from which to then tackle fundamental questions for our food system relating to health, environmental sustainability and animal welfare in the future. This partnership aims to ensure people are provided with better, more consistent information about the food they eat, as well as exploring future measures to incentivise reformulation, promote healthier food and reduce overconsumption of calories. We are pleased to see that food labelling, and a consistent approach towards eco-labelling, has been included within the remit of this partnership. More details about how this is going to work are expected to be shared within the DHSC Health Disparities White Paper later this year, and we are particularly keen to see the timeline involved as there is a pressing need for action.
As a nutrition science charity, and an organisation keenly interested in the drivers of changing food behaviours, we are pleased that the need for robust evidence to support behaviour change has been recognised so that future investment can be channelled towards the most effective types of interventions.
Sara Stanner, Science Director, British Nutrition Foundation said: “We support the overarching focus of this Food Strategy for England, on creating measures to support a resilient, healthier and more sustainable food system that is accessible and affordable to all. This is particularly important with the cost-of-living crisis. However, we are still awaiting further details of additional programmes and partnerships that should lead to implementation of new measures to address our obesity crisis and other major public health issues that we face.
“The Government acknowledges that it has a central role to play in addressing health inequalities and a responsibility to provide a food environment that enables individuals to make healthier choices. Whilst the Government’s Levelling Up agenda took on some of the recommendations from the National Food Strategy independent review, there is more to do.”
As education is such an important part of the work we do at the British Nutrition Foundation, we are pleased to see that the Government recognises that teachers and school leadership have a vital role to play to improve child health, having introduced some measures around food education within the Levelling Up White Paper. But we need to recognise that food education is more than ‘cooking’ and must encompass learning around healthy eating and where food comes from, to enable young people to make healthier and more sustainable choices now and into the future.
We also need to ensure that all young people can access a healthy and sustainable diet, and with so many families currently struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, we would encourage consideration of an extension to the eligibility for free school meals.
We welcome the publication of this long-awaited Food Strategy for England and note that there are more details to come within the upcoming Health Disparities White Paper. We need bold initiatives to tackle the health and environmental challenges we are facing, to make healthier and more sustainable choices easier and more accessible to all, improve the health of the nation and reduce health inequalities. The current and future initiatives outlined in this White Paper are promising and should ensure that any new measures that are introduced will be driven by a stronger evidence base, and we look forward to these measures being introduced in a timely manner.
1 You can read our previous response to the National Food Strategy here.
The British Nutrition Foundation has summarised the responses in the Defra White Paper mapped to the recommendations made within Part 2 of the National Food Strategy (NFS) in the table below. This is to facilitate our understanding and monitoring of which recommendations have been addressed (in the White Paper or in previous government commitments), which ones have been addressed in part and which ones currently have no clear commitment to date. We also outline the potential government departments that may be involved.
We will keep this table updated as further detail is provided or new measures are announced in relation to (1) food security and sustainable production, (2) healthier and sustainable eating and (3) the UK as part of a global food system.
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