Labour MP Kerry McCarthy called for better food labelling as well as action to fight food waste and poverty, according to a copy of her party conference speech given in Brighton.
Looking back at the Tory government’s record, the MP highlighted the horsemeat scandal which exposed the fact consumers “didn’t know what was in our food” and if it was safe.
“And yet the government weakened the Food Standards Agency, which should be there to protect us all from food fraud,” McCarthy said.
‘Food waste, food fraud’
“Tackling food poverty, food waste, food fraud. Decent, safe, healthy food for everyone. Why do the Tories think that’s too much to ask?”
View from Kerry McCarthy
“And yet the government weakened the Food Standards Agency, which should be there to protect us all from food fraud."
- Kerry McCarthy, Labour shadow secretary for environment
McCarthy also defended her vegan diet, which had sparked controversy because dairy farming and Britain’s meat industry fall under her remit.
“A UKIP MEP said on my appointment that I would have ‘little in common with consumers of food’. I can let him in on a secret,” she said.
‘Support British farming’
“I do eat food. Much of it produced by Britain’s farmers. So let me make it clear. I support British farming.”
The shadow environment secretary, who highlighted the problem of food waste and dependency on food banks, also called for a greater focus on British produce.
“I’d much rather see people buy British lamb, British apples, than imports from half way round the world,” she said.
“And we need better food labelling, so we know where our food is from, and what is in it. So we can choose to buy British, or to buy local.”
McCarthy stressed her commitment to the EU and said the UK’s continued membership was vital to the food and farming sector.
Earlier this year the manufacturing organisation EEF picked out the risk of Britain quitting the EU as the biggest single threat to UK manufacturing.
Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union and Food and Drink Federation (FDF) held a fringe event on food strategy at the Labour party conference yesterday (September 28).
Ahead of the event, FDF director Ian Wright said: “With more targeted focus from government, we can offer so much more in terms of export growth, skills development and innovation.”