Speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk as the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) prepared to publish new research* exploring the challenges faced by the industry over the next 15 years, communications director Julian Hunt said there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the spending review.
"The reality of the fiscal situation makes everything more difficult for us as a sector anyway: whether it is the way support is given to manufacturers through to the funding that government has for more ‘blue skies’ research and development that the National Farmers’ Union has been calling for.
"But we’ve really seen some encouraging stuff coming out of the coalition: from the work around regulation that BIS [the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills] is driving and you’ve got the new dynamic at the Department of Health (DoH).”
He rejected claims from health lobby groups that by transferring responsibility for nutrition policy from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to the DoH and calling for the private sector to play a greater role, the state was abdicating responsibility for public health in order to save money.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured) recognised that under the previous government there had been too many initiatives around public health, claimed Hunt. “Lansley is saying you’ve got to look at public health as a long-term thing and you’ve got to put in place clear long-term objectives.”
Labour, by contrast, was continually re-setting priorities in the nutrition policy arena, claimed Hunt: “We went from looking at salt at the FSA and then looking at saturated fats while at the same time the government, probably rightly, was saying: ‘our real priority is tackling obesity’ … so you kind of had this inconsistent landscape.”
Regardless of changes at the FSA, meanwhile, industry efforts to improve the nutritional profile of foods through reformulation would continue, as they were “writ large” under Lansley’s new ‘responsibility deal’, stressed Hunt.
* Future Scenarios for the UK Food and Drink Industry was commissioned by the FDF from the Institute for Manufacturing’s (IfM’s) Centre for Industry and Government at the University of Cambridge, and will be published this week.