The National Food Strategy yesterday published the first report of recommendations to Government. Eating Better Alliance organisations have broadly welcomed the recommendations but caution against the potential of a dual tariff system.
The report reflects on the information gathered through the broad consultation exercise of the last year, and focuses recommendations around food poverty and trade, in light of the challenges from Coronavirus, ahead of a full report due in 2021. In this article we share initial thoughts from across Eating Better’s alliance of over 64 organisations.
Ruth Westcott, Sustain's Co-ordinator for the Climate and Nature Emergency, says:
"Our food system is the single biggest cause of the climate and nature emergency and the strategy rightly says that government action is needed urgently. Concrete proposals are due in stage two and we look forward to some bold policies to switch our diets to more sustainably produced, seasonal fruit and veg and less but better meat and dairy, with public sector food the perfect place to start. There are a number of actions that government can take - today - to make our food system healthier, deliver better jobs, and give British people the kind of fair, green recovery that they overwhelmingly want. I outline five in a blog here."
Caroline Bovey BEM RD, Chair of British Dietetic Association, says:
“Henry Dimbleby’s first report gives an eye-opening account of the impact that COVID-19 has had upon our food sector, our eating habits and our health. It also highlights what dietitians and many others have known for some time – that we need to significantly improve our nation’s food system and diet. There is a great deal not included within this first report, but that is clearly by design, with the focus being on COVID-19 and Brexit. We will need much more from the full strategy. We hope Mr Dimbleby and the wider review panel will use the next phase as an opportunity to engage with and draw on the expertise of dietitians on key issues of nutrition and health.”
Pete Ritchie, Executive Director, Nourish Scotland, says:
"Is that it? It's reminiscent of early responses to climate change: pragmatic and generally well-meaning but not quite ready to see the need for a fundamental change to business as usual.
It's good that the team will be back with a more comprehensive report next year, but this 'first independent report for 75 years' is hardly a proportionate response to the food system challenges faced by England along with the rest of the world.
On trade, it's too late. A Parliament which will not even vote to give itself powers is not an adequate safeguard against trade deals which reflect the deregulatory ethos of Brexit. The prospect of using tariffs to discourage chlorinated chicken moves the debate from 'the people have said they don't want this' to 'it's a matter of price, not principle - let the market figure this out'.
Let's hope Part 2 is more transformational."
Rob Percival, Head of Policy, Soil Association, says:
“The interim report acknowledges that the climate crisis eclipses Covid-19 in the scale of threat that it poses to our food security and our wellbeing. The final report needs to tackle the issue head-on, with transformative action to resolve the climate crisis, while regenerating our soils, replenishing our wildlife, and levelling inequalities so that everyone can access and afford a healthy and sustainable diet.”
Katie White, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF-UK, said:
"It’s encouraging that this interim strategy looks not just at the direct impacts of food on our health, but also the links between what we eat and climate change, nature, disease and how we use the world’s resources. The understanding that human health and the health of the planet are fundamentally linked is a critically important step forward. We welcome this interim report and its goal to address the urgent need to bolster the dietary health of our children and most vulnerable and to ensure an approach to trade that allows the UK to assert its sovereignty and protect our high food production standards from being undermined, with trade deals that are subject to independent assessment and Parliamentary scrutiny."
Lucy Bjorck, Senior Policy Advisor, RSPB, says:
“It is heartening to see the Strategy highlight the importance of upholding high standards in food and farming – including tackling deforestation. On trade however we are concerned that the approach it recommends may not do this. With Brexit looming on the horizon it is crucial that we get trade approach right, so that it supports rather than undermines a shift toward more sustainable farming at home.”
Karen C Seyersted, Director, Whole Health Agriculture, says:
"We need a rewarding system for farmers who manage their soil, plants and livestock in a way that promotes optimal health from ground to gut. There is a cost to cheap food that goes beyond economics, there are also social and ecological aspects. Food as medicine needs to be part of the curriculum for medical students as well as primary school children and prospective families, and policies must assure that ‘real’ and healthy food is affordable and that people are taught how to prepare it."
Suzi Shingler, Campaign Manager, Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, says:
"We welcome the publication of Part One of the National Food Strategy, the time is absolutely right for a food revolution. We are pleased to see the Strategy has health at its core. Protecting the efficacy of antibiotics is key to maintaining future planetary health, so upholding and improving standards for domestic production and imports is vital. We cannot echo the Strategy's call for scrutiny of proposed trade deals strongly enough."
Eating Better alliance organisations have expertise in health, environment, animal welfare, farming and social justice. The alliance is working to stimulate a 50% reduction in meat and dairy consumption in the UK by 2030, and for a transition to ‘better’ meat and dairy as standard.
We see the National Food Strategy consultation and report as an important first step in our call for Government to deliver a cross-departmental food and farming strategy which is one of 24 actions set out in the Better by half: roadmap.