Sustain welcomes the publication of the National Food Strategy (NFS) Part Two. The NFS is the first comprehensive review of the food system in 75 years, and the UK Government’s White Paper response to this offers a critical moment to drive systemic reform of the food system.
- The strategy focuses primarily on escaping the junk food cycle, reducing diet-related inequality, making the best use of our land, and creating a long-term shift in our food culture.
- In the context of upcoming trade deals that could undermine our net zero ambitions, animal welfare values, farmers’ livelihoods and public health policies, the Strategy’s recommendations are very much needed.
- This briefing breaks down the NFS report and directs parliamentarians to our NFS hub and broader publications on each of the following areas:
- Sugar and salt reformulation tax (NFS recommendation 1)
- Dietary inequalities (NFS recommendations 3-7)
- Farming and land use (NFS recommendations 8 and 9)
- Trade (NFS recommendation 10)
- Healthy and sustainable diets
- Procurement (NFS recommendation 13)
- Governance (NFS recommendation 14)
Sugar and Salt Reformulation Tax
Recommendation 1: Introduce a sugar and salt reformulation tax. Use some of the revenue to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low-income families.
- The NFS report recommends that Government should introduce a £3/kg tax on sugar and a £6/kg tax on salt sold for use in processed foods or in restaurants and catering businesses.
- This would create an incentive for manufacturers to reduce the levels of sugar and salt in their products, by reformulating their recipes or reducing their portion sizes.
- Sustain’s briefing on the sugar and salt reformulation tax proposal can be seen here, as well as our blog on why we need a junk food tax.
Recommendations 3-7: Launch a new “Eat and Learn” initiative for schools, extend eligibility for free school meals, fund the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the next three years, expand the Healthy Start scheme and trial a “Community Eatwell” programme, supporting those on low incomes to improve their diets.
- The NFS report argues that children living in the poorest areas are four times more likely than children from the richest areas to be severely obese when they arrive at primary school.
- The report recommends that the Government extends free school meals to all children in households currently earning less than £20,000, as well as those from households with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), to whom the Government extended free school meals during the pandemic.
- Sustain’s policy briefing on Dietary Inequalities can be seen here as well as our blog on why the food strategy cannot ignore food insecurity here.
Farming and land use
Recommendation 8: Guarantee the budget for agricultural payments until at least 2029 to help farmers transition to more sustainable land use.
Recommendation 9: Create a Rural Land Use Framework based on the three-compartment model.
- The NFS report argues that an extension of farmer payments to 2029 will ensure that farmers are incentivised to switch from conventional farming to more sustainable practices, as well as prevent farmers from intensifying to make up for losses and from leaving the industry all together.
- The report also argues in favour of the “three compartment model” of land use (chapter 10), which has some agroecological farms, some conventional high-yield farms, and some land freed for nature.
- Read Sustain’s briefing on why we need more incentives for sustainable farming and do not see a role of further intensification.
Recommendation 10: Define minimum standards for trade, and a mechanism for protecting them.
- The NFS advocates for a set of core standards for imports and for a mechanism to protect those standards. In our view it is only by ensuring that all food consumed in the UK is produced sustainably that the government will truly maintain its manifesto promise to not compromise on high standards in trade.
- The UK Government has articulated an ambitious post-Brexit, agricultural policy where public money will be awarded to farmers for public goods such as protecting nature. Signing trade deals that undercut our farmers with low standard produce would make that impossible to deliver.
- The UK Government also needs to recognise global risks and responsibilities in its trade policy. Buying low standard, low animal welfare produced by partner nations whose farm systems are carbon intensive, overuse antibiotics and pesticides, drive deforestation or reduce biodiversity would simply be off-shoring our global responsibility towards people and the planet.
- Sustain has published a briefing on the impact of the Australia trade deal on farmers, as well as a joint briefing with Compassion in World Farming on the animal welfare concerns of the Australia deal.
Healthy and sustainable diets
- The NFS report argues for a 30% increase in fruit and veg in our diets by 2032 and a 30% reduction in the consumption of all meats by 2032.
- Over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions come fr om the food and farming system, and multiples studies show that is not possible to achieve the Paris climate targets, or net zero in the UK, without changing how we farm, fish, transport and eat food.
- Sustain has published a briefing on why sustainable food and farming is key to achieving net zero.
Recommendation 13: Strengthen Government procurement rules to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on healthy and sustainable food.
- The NFS report recommends that the Government should redesign the Government Buying Standards for Food (GBSF), to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on food that is both healthy and sustainable.
- The report also argues that the Government must introduce a mandatory accreditation scheme for all public institutions, working with existing certification bodies such as Food for Life, to help them reach baseline standards and encourage them to aim higher still.
- The report also recommends for the wider roll out of Dynamic Food Procurement, which will provide the opportunity for SMEs and more agroecological producers to gain access to public sector markets.
- Read Sustain’s policy brief for our report on The Case for Local Food, advocating for dynamic procurement and shorter farmer-focused supply chains.
- Read Sustain's submission to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee endorsing a reform of GBSF and dynamic procurement.
Recommendation 14: Set clear targets and bring in legislation for long-term change.
- The NFS report recommends creating a statutory target to improve diet-related health through a Good Food Bill.
- The report outlines recommendations to develop and periodically update a healthy and sustainable “Reference Diet” for the nation, to be used by all public bodies in food-related policy making and procurement, and to develop a harmonised and consistent food labelling system to describe the environmental impacts of food products.