Reactions to ground-breaking food strategy review

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

The strategy will cover the entire food chain, from field to fork
The strategy will cover the entire food chain, from field to fork

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Industry stakeholders have reacted to the launch of a ground-breaking review designed to deliver a comprehensive National Food Strategy for England – here are their views.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF):​ “Over the last 70 years we have begun to take for granted that there will be food on our table, yet in truth our food and drink industry is a strategic national asset to be protected. It is central to the economic success and cultural fabric of our country and the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. Its contribution to our future growth, prosperity and sustainability is vital. 

“So we applaud ​[environment secretary] Michael Gove’s bold commitment to create a national Food Strategy for England, and embed a holistic approach to policy-making across food and drink. We look forward to working with Henry Dimbleby and his team ​across the UK Government on these important themes, building on the proposals put forward in our recent Plan for Success.”

The FDF's Plan for Success

In partnership with more than 30 other industry organisations, the FDF launched its A Recipe for Growth, Prosperity and Sustainability: the UK Food and Drink Industry's Plan for Success​ on 19 June. The publication sets out a clear vision for how for policy-makers across Whitehall and the devolved nations can support the industry and ensure the UK food chain is the most dynamic and competitive in the world.

The Plan for Success is broken down into policy areas based around topics such as future regulation and trade policy; tackling obesity; developing skills and talent; investing in exports and innovation; and environmental sustainability. It provides suggestions on how governments across the UK can work with the industry to support evidence-based interventions to address unprecedented threats such as climate change and the obesity challenge.

The paper also includes proposals that would unlock the growth and productivity potential of an sector which provides the nation with an unparalleled choice of safe, affordable, and nutritious food and drink at all price points. The FDF hoped that the suggestions would help safeguard the food and drink supply chain against uncertainty in the period after Brexit.

Commenting on the launch of the plan, ​Wright said: “Ahead of the upcoming National Food Strategy, the UK Food and Drink Industry's Plan for Success demonstrates that our industry is ready and willing to deliver economic growth, healthier consumption, environmental benefits, and higher-skilled jobs that will benefit every community. Now we need governments across the UK to work with us in partnership to deliver a thriving UK food and drink industry.

“The calamitous struggle of Brexit must end ​ whoever the Prime Minister. Then, we must look to the future and how to deliver success for the UK's largest manufacturing sector, the four million people who work in food and drink and this industry, which is at the heart of our national life.”

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU):​ “I am very pleased to see that the Government is taking food production seriously and putting plans in place for a national food strategy – this review is long overdue. 

“It is crucial that this strategy delivers for everyone – from food producers to families across the country, regardless of their income. Safe, traceable, affordable food that is produced to high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection is a right for all and British farmers should be the number one supplier of this. 

“The NFU has done some early work with Henry Dimbleby on what a food strategy can look like and I am delighted that he has included much of this in his framework. We are looking forward to working with his review to deliver a food system that is fair for all.”

British Nutrition Foundation director general professor Judy Buttriss:​ "Food is more than fuel. What we eat characterises who we are and how we live our lives. It influences our health and wellbeing and the food we produce in the UK shapes the landscape we live in and provides jobs and supports the economy. But food production is also intricately linked to the environment and is both a driver and an outcome of climate change. 

“In some respects, eating healthily is seen as all about eating less/cutting things out. But this need not be the case. Good nutrition is as much about eating more of some things (such as vegetables, wholegrains, pulses) as it is about cutting back on others (such as salt, free sugars, saturated fat and calories). The integrated message of variety, balance and nutrient density ​ making every calorie count ​ needs to be reflected in food production right through to what we teach children in schools about food.

“These are just a few of the  many reasons why we need a fundamental rethink about food policy in the UK. This important initiative provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look at food, nutrition and the environment in the round – in its entirety, through multiple lenses.”

Statement from the Food Standards Agency: ​"We welcome this review into the food system commissioned by the environment secretary Michael Gove and look forward to working with Henry Dimbleby to ensure consumers remain confident of the UK’s highest food safety standards so that we all can have trust in the food we eat today and in the future.”

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation​: “Today’s pledge to develop a ground-breaking new National Food Strategy will send a signal to the world that our food system needs radical reform in order to rein in its devastating impacts on our health and our planet. Let’s hope the businesses which put food on our plates see this as an exciting opportunity to be part of the solution.”

The review of National Food Strategy

The review will be headed by Henry Dimbleby, co-author of the Government's Childhood Obesity Plan and co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, who jointly launched it with Gove. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said the National Food Strategy would build on the work underway in the Agriculture Bill, the Environment Bill, the Fisheries Bill, the Industrial Strategy and the Childhood Obesity Plan. The scope of the review will be England, but the strategy will consider relationships with the devolved administrations, the EU and other trading partners.

The strategy will cover the entire food chain, from field to fork: the production, marketing, processing, sale and purchase of food (for consumption in the home and out of it), and the consumer practices, resources and institutions involved in these processes.

It is intended to be an overarching strategy for government, designed to ensure that the food system:

  • delivers safe, healthy, affordable food, regardless of where people live or how much they earn
  • is robust in the face of future shocks
  • restores and enhances the natural environment for the next generation in this country
  • is built upon a resilient, sustainable and humane agriculture sector
  • is a thriving contributor to our urban and rural economies, delivering well-paid jobs and supporting innovative producers and manufacturers across the country
  • delivers all this in an efficient and cost effective way.

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