Saturday, June 25, 2022

A quick guide to the government’s food strategy – and what’s still missing

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The ministers rejected central proposals of the National Nutrition Strategy

junk food

What does the government’s long-awaited food strategy say:

While ministers rejected plans to introduce new fat, sugar and salt taxes, the strategy recognizes the need to address the deepening obesity crisis the country is facing. In particular, it says the pandemic has led to “exponential growth” in takeaway consumption. The document says manufacturers could be encouraged to reformulate products to reduce calories or make candy bars and chip packs smaller. The traffic light label system could be expanded to encourage consumers to choose healthier options amid trials of government intervention over the next three years.

Agriculture

Planning permission is being revised to allow for the construction of huge greenhouses covering several acres of land to allow more fruit and vegetables to be grown domestically. The agricultural sector will also be encouraged to use excess heat and CO2 for existing industrial processes to boost production of such crops. It is also advising plans to ensure that 50 per cent of public sector spending on food procurement is spent on locally produced food.

workforce

A further 10,000 seasonal worker visas will be made available this year, mainly for the poultry sector after last year’s successful trial, increasing the number of visas from 30,000 to 40,000. The government has said that 28,000 workers have already come this year and that the season is only half over. An independent review to address labor shortages in the food supply chain is also being launched to examine the “roles of automation, domestic work and migration to ensure UK businesses have access to the labor force they need”.

Free school lunches

The government has failed to expand entitlements to free school meals, but has made access to the benefit permanent for those who have no recourse to public funds. This means that children of parents who are subject to immigration controls are still entitled to free school meals.

Sugar and Salt Tax

Henry Dimbleby, author of the National Food Strategy, warned that a £3 per kg tax on sugar and a £6 per kg salt tax in food was needed to break the “junk food cycle” that led to it unhealthy lifestyles and a major drain on the NHS. The proposals were rejected.

Reduce meat consumption by 30 percent

The strategy also called for a drastic reduction in meat consumption in people’s diets over the next decade to help meet the government’s health, climate and environmental goals. Mr Dimbleby said the current appetite for meat was “unsustainable”. More than four-fifths of arable land is being given up for livestock feeding, he added. Ministers said they would not “teach” people about what to eat.

Extend entitlement to free school meals

The report called for the household income threshold for receiving free school meals to be raised from £7,600 to £20,000. It also called for students to be automatically enrolled instead of having to register. Both proposals fell short of the final strategy.

Food reporting requirements

She also called for the introduction of mandatory reporting of food data for all food companies with more than 250 employees. In particular, companies would have to report every year all the data on how much fruit and vegetables are sold, as well as the level of food waste. The government pledged to only consult on food waste reporting.

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