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EFRA Committee calls for more Government action on food security

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee have released a report calling on the Government to take food security more seriously, or risk public health consequences. The report called on the Government to revisit its response to the National Food Strategy, particularly on the free school meals and 'breaking the junk food cycle' recommendations. Sustain responds. 

Big Ben, London . Credit: James Newcombe | Unsplash

Big Ben, London . Credit: James Newcombe | Unsplash

The report states that a fifth of UK households are struggling to get access to affordable healthy food, leading them to turn to unhealthy alternatives. Without action, this will contribute to making 40% of the population obese by 2025.  

According to the Committee, the Government food strategy response fell short and “did not cover the topic at all or set out any actions to break the junk food cycle”. Author the of the food strategy, Henry Dimbleby, resigned earlier this year due to ‘insane’ Government inaction on obesity. 

Sustain submitted evidence to the committee's inquiry last year, calling on the Government to implement practical steps to provide more support for low-income households, including measures such as expanding Free School Meals (FSM) and the school fruit and veg scheme. Sustain also criticized the missed opportunity in reducing dietary inequalities following the Government’s Food Strategy response.

The report including multiple recommendations for the Government which Sustain supports:

  • Undertake a detailed study of the existing literature on the costs and benefits of extending FSM. This should include extending FSM for those children living in a Universal Credit claiming household, the impact of raising the means-test to £20,000 post-tax income but before claiming benefits, as well as removing the means-test altogether leading to universal provision. 
  • Undertake and publish a full impact assessment of the introduction of a sugar and salt reformulation tax. The Government should submit this to the committee within three months of this report being published. 
  • Forecast rates of being overweight and being obese had the HFSS food volume price promotions been introduced in October 2022. The regulations should also be broadened to exclude all price promotions of HFSS food, to ban meal deals where any element of a meal deal has to be cooked prior to eating, and to extend the regulations’ coverage to all food shops. 
  • The Government should examine whether the totality of support to lower-income households is sufficient, and reduce reliance on food aid organisations. Sustain strongly advocates for action on food poverty beyond the food bank.  
  • Publish a detailed response to each of the National Food Strategy recommendations. The report made clear that Government food strategy report had fallen short. The Cabinet Office should undertake a comprehensive review of departmental responsibilities and structures regarding food policy and its various facets. 
  • Publish a more up-to-date food security report, which should be published annually. The current UK Food Security report published in 2021 is out of date. The report should provide essential guidance to Defra and wider Government strategy on food security. 
  • The Prime Minister should chair a dedicated food security summit later this year. Food security was not the focus of the summit this year, therefore it needs a fair hearing in a separate event.
  • Develop a suite of food security indicators covering both inputs and outputs and set targets for them, which should in turn influence food security policy. The Government should outline its approach to this in its Response and should launch the suite of indicators within 12 months of this Report’s publication. 
  • Publish the Land Use Framework. The Land Use framework should not be overly prescriptive, but it should make clear what the Government’s priorities are and how it will help the private sector to achieve them.

Full report can be seen here. The Government has two months to respond.

Published Friday 28 July 2023

Sustain: Sustain The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.

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