Labour conference: food policy remains unclear

By Alice Foster contact

- Last updated on GMT

FDF director general Ian Wright (second left) sits on a fringe event panel
FDF director general Ian Wright (second left) sits on a fringe event panel

Related tags: Veganism, Ian wright

Labour needs more time to develop its food policy, while industry should respect the vegan convictions of the new shadow environment secretary, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

The opposition party’s food strategy remains unclear even after a food debate at the Labour party conference this week, FDF director general Ian Wright told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

“We don’t quite know yet what the policies are going to be. They are going to be formulating them over the next year,”​ Wright said.

During the Labour Party conference there had been some mention of skills and training as well as greater intervention in industry, he said.

“If they are going to target the manufacturing industry, clearly ours is the biggest. So you would assume there might be more state help on offer which would be welcome in innovation and R&D ​[research and development],” ​he said.

‘Wait for detail’

“But we are going to have to wait for the detail basically.”

Shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy’s vegan diet was discussed at a fringe event organised by the FDF and National Farmers Union (NFU) in Brighton on Monday (September 28).

“I think that was a reasonable discussion. There was a bit of hostility from some farmers. I made the case that we have got to respect her views and work with them,”​ Wright said.

“She’s clearly a principled person with a strong belief in the lifestyle she’s chosen to follow. We have got to respect that and take at face value her pledge to support the food and drink industry.”  

In Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour leader yesterday (September 29), he said manufacturing was in decline and criticised the government for failing to intervene to support the steel industry.

On Kerry McCarthy's vegan beliefs

​There was a bit of hostility from some farmers. I made the case that we have got to respect her views and work with them.”

Ian Wright, director general at the Food and Drink Federation  

‘Open mind’

Asked about Corbyn, Wright said: “I think we have to approach him and his new team with an open mind. It’s all too easy to react to what we have been told about him.

“Clearly, he has a considerable track record as a radical and campaigning MP who has taken a somewhat critical view of some parts of the economy.”

The panel at the FDF and NFU fringe event included former shadow environment minister Angela Smith and her successor Nick Smith.

Afterwards NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Now is the time for Labour to show their support for a national food plan which was a key manifesto pledge ahead of the election in May.”

Meanwhile, McCarthy highlighted food fraud, waste, poverty and inadequate labelling during her speech to the party conference​ on Tuesday.  

What is a vegan?

  • A strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products
  • Someone who also abstains from using animal products such as leather
  • A term coined in 1944 by animal rights advocate Donald Watson 

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