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Supermarkets join civil society, producers, councils, health campaigners and academics to call for new food legislation

News | Published  1 March 2022
Tesco, Sainsbury's, Co-op, Aldi, M&S, Youngs and Greggs are among food businesses supporting the call for new, primary legislation to tackle the impact of our food system on climate, nature and health.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Co-op, Aldi, M&S, Youngs and Greggs are among food businesses supporting the call for new, primary legislation to tackle the impact of our food system on climate, nature and health. Local councils and food catering companies Sodexo, Greencore and Compass UK & Ireland, which supply the public sector, are also backing the call for a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for the UK government to set out a single, visionary plan to transform England’s food system for our health, the economy and the planet.”

The call comes ahead of a white paper, expected soon, in which the Westminster government will respond to the recommendations of the National Food Strategy. Published last July, it outlined the integration and collaboration that will be needed across all sectors to make our food system fit for purpose to achieve net zero, restore nature and deliver on health and food justice. 

The statement says: 

“The UK Government Food Strategy White Paper, coming so soon after the COP26 climate summit, is a line in the sand moment to reduce the environmental impacts of England’s food system (without offshoring impacts), increase access to and affordability of a healthy diet, and support farmers, businesses and other stakeholders to accelerate their transition towards more healthy, sustainable practices whilst providing high quality employment in all parts of the country. With food system strategies and legislation underway in all the devolved nations, this is an excellent opportunity to consider how legislation introduced in Westminster could be of benefit to all."

Eating Better’s executive director Simon Billing said: 

“The food system we have built up over the last seventy years is no longer fit for purpose in the face of the climate, nature and health challenges and is working against us, not for us. As the latest IPCC report clearly states, the way we produce and consume food drives climate change, wildlife and habitat loss and a global health crisis. Against the backdrop of a pandemic, and now war, we recognise that the government has a lot on its plate, but we can’t miss this ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to create a better food system.  Big food businesses are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with civil society in a powerful coalition calling for action on food. We hope ministers are listening and don’t ignore this loud and unified call for systemic change.”

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain said:

“We can’t solve the obesity crisis through willpower and exercise alone. That policy approach is tried and tested; it has spent a lot of taxpayer money and it has failed. Education can help, but it’s not enough to break the vicious cycle that shortens people’s lives and hampers life opportunities. Councils, academics, health charities and consumers are all signalling that the Government needs to act. Businesses say they need a level playing field to prevent being held back by a system that is skewed in favour of junk food. We need the Government to be bold, to take action and put laws in place that help tackle the systemic problems in our food system.”

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of the Food Foundation said:  

“Re-orienting the food system so it helps us achieve the environmental and health goals that we aspire to in Britain is both an urgent priority and long term challenge.  It needs the commitment of successive governments which can only be achieved through a Good Food Bill which sets out how progress will be tracked and by whom. Today's statement demonstrates the high expectations from civil society organisations,  businesses and academia that the forthcoming Food Strategy White Paper delivers a genuine step change in the Government's approach to food policy.”  

Katie White, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF said: 

"Sustainable, affordable and healthy food should be the norm, not the exception. The UK Government needs to take urgent, co-ordinated action to fix the broken food system. We need them to deliver an integrated national plan to reduce the environmental and health impact of food produced and consumed in the UK. This would enable farmers to speed up a transition to regenerative farming. At the same time, we need businesses and policymakers to take action to ensure that UK supply chains are truly sustainable.”

Katie-Jo Luxton, Executive Director, Global Conservation at RSPB said:

“The drastic declines in wildlife are a red flashing warning light that our current ways of producing food are damaging the very ecosystems that support future food production.  We need a radical rethink of our food and farming system to put ourselves on a new path to enable restoration of our fragile countryside so that it can deliver the Government’s net zero and nature positive commitments, as well as improve health and reduce inequalities so that everyone can have access to abundant nature and wildlife-friendly food.”

Read the statement in full here.