Speaking at the FDF’s President’s Dinner in London last night (April 17), Jim Moseley, FDF president, urged keynote speaker, heath secretary Andrew Lansley, to: “… adopt a breadth not depth strategy”, with regard to the continued development of the PHRD.
Government should “… broaden the membership of the responsibility deal by getting more companies to sign the pledges that have already been developed, rather than deepening the commitments of the existing partners in developing new pledges”, he said.
So far, more than 30 FDF members have signed up to a total of 170 pledges under the PHRD. The pledges concern salt reduction, elimination of artificial trans-fatty acids, out-of-home calorie labelling and a range of actions on health at work.
But Moseley said the foodservice sector was not yet “playing its full part”. He added that small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also have a role to play but might not always have the necessary technical resources to do so.
Funding to remedy that problem was already available from the Scottish government and Moseley pledged to work with the Department of Health (DoH) to study how a similar model might work in England. “Scottish government funding is helping … small businesses to play their part in spreading best practice … and we are starting to see the results of this pioneering work.”
One year on from the launch of the PHRD, Lansley used his keynote address to reconfirm the government’s faith in voluntary action to improve public health rather than legislation. “The test [of the PHRD’s success] is to achieve more, more quickly by voluntary action than would be achieved by costly and intrusive regulation. There is no doubt we are achieving that.”
More had been achieved to improve public health in the past two years than in the previous decade, he claimed.
Rounding on critics of the government’s voluntary approach, Lansley said: “There are some who stand on the sidelines, they won’t play on the pitch, who claim easy regulatory solutions. But they ignore the fact that food legislation is overwhelmingly European in origin.”
Lord Green, minister of state for Trade and Investment, praised the sector’s innovation after Mintel confirmed the launch of 8,500 new food and drink products last year.
“If the rest of UK manufacturing was as vibrant and innovative as the food and drink industry, we would be well on track to rebalancing the economy,” said Green.
He added that his department planned to encourage SMEs to step up food and drink exports in response to our competitors’ “… aggressive and often state-backed export plans”.
To watch FoodManufacture.co.uk’s exclusive video interview with agriculture and food minister Jim Paice about food and drink exports, filmed at Foodex click here.