Image: Shutterstock/Happy Together
The Food Foundation has expressed disappointment with the Government’s food White Paper for a long-term plan incentivising the food system’s shift towards “nourishing, sustainable and affordable food”, saying it ‘mostly misses this mark’.
In a hard hitting statement, the Foundation said with the prices of food and fuel surging, the ambition the Government wants to pursue, is more urgent than ever, as more households who are struggling to pay bills are put at even greater risk of diet-related disease.
“Disappointingly, today’s White Paper mostly misses this mark,” the Food Foundation wrote in response to the paper’s publication. “The need for a political champion to lead this agenda has never been greater.”
While the Foundation welcomed several of the new commitments that have been made, such as a new horticulture strategy for England, a land use framework, mandatory buying standards for food in all public sector settings, and mandatory business reporting, it said “many of them will flounder without new legislation to make them stick”.
The statement went on: “The lack of a Food Bill in the White Paper makes today’s strategy a pale imitation of the independent National Food Strategy which was published last year. Echoes of many of Henry Dimbleby’s good ideas can be seen within today’s recommendations, but without robust regulatory mechanisms to ensure that they can be delivered and enforced the proposals do not have the clout that will be necessary to deliver real impact.”
Without primary legislation to introduce long-term targets and accountability mechanisms for shifting the food system, the Foundation said it is sceptical that the strategy is “up to the challenge of delivering the consistency of progress that is needed over the long-term”.
Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation said: “Today’s White Paper shows that no one in leadership in government appears to have really grasped the scale and urgency of the challenges posed to our health and our planet by the food system. What’s more, these challenges are growing exponentially with the cost of living crisis.
“Despite its name, the whole document is lacking a strategy to transition the food system towards delivering good food which is accessible to everyone. And without a commitment to a new Food Bill, many of the commendable commitments made are in reality toothless. It is a feeble interpretation of Henry Dimbleby’s recommendations, which will not be sufficient to drive the long-term change that we know is so urgently needed.”
ProVeg UK responded to the publication of White Paper on UK National Food Strategy by saying it fails to mention the climate impact of meat and dairy and omits any reference to plant-based food as a solution to the climate crisis.
Calling such an omission a “dereliction of duty”, Jimmy Pierson, director of food awareness organisation, ProVeg UK, said: “It’s a cop out, and largely ignores the National Food Strategy, which called on the nation to eat 30% less meat. Instead, the Government has served up 30 pages of precious little, wasting a golden opportunity to fix our broken food system. I’m sure we’re not the only organisation dedicated to securing a healthier and more sustainable future that’s in utter despair with this Government today.”
“While we support the Government’s sentiments on educating children around healthy and more sustainable food, it falls short of any meaningful way of reducing the barriers and making them more accessible to all, which is so desperately needed.”
Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt said the announcement makes it “abundantly clear that our Government is in the pocket of the food industry and has no desire to bite the hand that feeds it”.
He said he can only assume that Sajid Javid [Secretary of State for Health and Social Care] has chosen not to implement these tailor-made recommendations for political reasons, which completely contradicts the Government’s levelling up ambitions.
Professor Graham MacGregor added: “This shambolic decision will no doubt massively impact the NHS and the nation’s health which will suffer the consequences and escalating cost of treating obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and tooth decay (all linked to our very high and unnecessary sugar, salt and saturated fat intakes) that the food industry is entirely responsible for.”