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Food retailers join civil society, farmers and academics in call for food laws

Major supermarkets and food retailers, including TESCO, Sainsburys, Co-op, Aldi and M&S, have joined forces with civil society groups, health campaigners and academics in calling for bold food legislation in the UK Government’s response to the National Food Strategy.

Supporters for food strategy legislation . Credit: Eating Better

Supporters for food strategy legislation . Credit: Eating Better

The group, which also includes Sustain, the Food Foundation and WWF and is supported by Greggs and large contract caterers, called the forthcoming food strategy white paper a 'once-in-a-generation opportunity for the UK Government to set out a single visionary plan to transform England’s food system for our health, the economy, and the planet'.   

Outlining all the challenges faced by the food system, the group says that it is only by taking a cross-government approach and building on the recommendations laid out in the National Food Strategy, that the Government can lead the food system reform necessary to achieve its net zero and nature positive commitments, tackle obesity and reduce inequalities.   

The statement says:

“The UK Government Food Strategy White Paper, coming so soon after the COP26 climate summit, is a line in the sand moment to reduce the environmental impacts of England’s food system (without offshoring impacts), increase access to and affordability of a healthy diet, and support farmers, businesses and other stakeholders to accelerate their transition towards more healthy, sustainable practices whilst providing high quality employment in all parts of the country. With food system strategies and legislation underway in all the devolved nations, this is an excellent opportunity to consider how legislation introduced in Westminster could be of benefit to all."

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain commented:  “We can’t solve the obesity crisis through willpower and exercise alone. That policy approach is tried and tested; it has spent a lot of taxpayer money and it has failed. Education can help, but it’s not enough to break the vicious cycle that shortens people’s lives and hampers life opportunities. Councils, academics, health charities and consumers are all signalling that the Government needs to act. Businesses say they need a level playing field to prevent being held back by a system that is skewed in favour of junk food. We need the Government to be bold, to take action and put laws in place that help tackle the systemic problems in our food system.”

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of the Food Foundation said:  “Re-orienting the food system so it helps us achieve the environmental and health goals that we aspire to in Britain is both an urgent priority and long term challenge.  It needs the commitment of successive governments which can only be achieved through a Good Food Bill which sets out how progress will be tracked and by whom. Today's statement demonstrates the high expectations from civil society organisations,  businesses and academia that the forthcoming Food Strategy White Paper delivers a genuine step change in the Government's approach to food policy.”  

Katie White, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF, said:  "Sustainable, affordable and healthy food should be the norm, not the exception. The UK Government needs to take urgent, co-ordinated action to fix the broken food system. We need them to deliver an integrated national plan to reduce the environmental and health impact of food produced and consumed in the UK. This would enable farmers to speed up a transition to regenerative farming. At the same time, we need businesses and policymakers to take action to ensure that UK supply chains are truly sustainable.”

Katie-Jo Luxton, Executive Director, Global Conservation at RSPB commented: “The drastic declines in wildlife are a red flashing warning light that our current ways of producing food are damaging the very ecosystems that support future food production.  We need a radical rethink of our food and farming system to put ourselves on a new path to enable restoration of our fragile countryside so that it can deliver the Government’s net zero and nature positive commitments, as well as improve health  and reduce inequalities so that everyone can have access to abundant nature and wildlife-friendly food.”

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Every day there are thousands of UK families who struggle to stick to a healthy diet through no fault of their own. “A Food Bill could make everyday foods healthier for everyone, which in turn could help to address stubbornly high obesity rates and boost the nation’s heart health. In particular, we support recommendations for an industry levy to drive down salt and sugar content. “But to truly create a healthier environment for all, Government must forge ahead with its existing commitments on obesity, such as restrictions on the advertising and promotion of unhealthy food.”

You can read the statement in full here

 

The National Food Strategy was published in July 2021. The Government response is now overdue.

 

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Published 27 Feb 2022

National Food Strategy: Launched in two parts over 2020-2021, the National Food Strategy is an independent review commissioned by government to set out a vision and a plan for a better food system.

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