The Government’s new food strategy paper, published on June 13th, ‘falls far short’ of what it required to improve the health of the nation, The College of Medicine’s Chair, Dr Michael Dixon has said.
The National Food Strategy doesn’t include a tax on foods that are high in salt and sugar, but does make recommendations to support UK farming. It also ignores many of the recommendations made in Henry Dimbleby’s 2020 and 2021 food strategy papers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the paper laid out plans to ‘back farmers, boost British industry and help protect people against the impacts of future economic shocks’ but health experts have criticised the lack of focus on healthy eating in the document.
Mr Johnson added: ‘Harnessing new technologies and innovation, we will grow and eat more of our own food – unlocking jobs across the country and growing the economy, which in turn will ultimately help to reduce pressure on prices.’
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Our Chair, Dr Micheal Dixon said the paper didn’t go far enough in addressing issues that will help reduce preventable disease and the burden on our healthcare system.
He said: ‘The College of Medicine believes that a National Food Strategy should ensure that healthy eating is affordable and available for everyone – enabling and supporting all of us to live as healthy lives as possible in line with the values of the NHS. The current strategy published today falls far short of these aspirations.’
Dr Dixon continued: ‘Changing things radically will require comprehensive cultural change at a local level – it is a pity that this paper leaves out that part of Henry Dimbleby’s strategy.
‘Nothing else has been shown to work, eg the five-a-day campaign made little difference, but we know Government restrictions, for example curbing smoking, can work. Why not restrict sugar and salt, which carry equally harmful effects and economic consequences? Is this a Government that cares about those who most need to eat a healthy diet?’
Businessman Henry Dimbleby, who carried out a major review of UK food in 2020 and 2021 as part of the National Food Strategy for the Government – and is speaking at the Food on Prescription conference in London on June 18th, also heavily criticised the new paper.
The food tsar said: ‘It doesn’t set out a clear vision as to why we have the problems we have now, and it doesn’t set out what needs to be done.’
He added that only half of his recommendations had been adopted, telling the BBC: ‘They’ve now implemented more than 50% of what I recommended, but it hasn’t been done with one vision across the whole system.’
In his reports for the Government published in July 2020 and 2021, Dimbleby surmised that the British diet needs to change significantly to help society battle issues such as obesity and climate change.
The Leon restaurant chain founder called for families with low incomes to be offered free fruit and vegetables to help them ‘break the cycle’ of buying food that is affordable but unhealthy.
The Government adviser also called for a salt and sugar tax on processed foods and suggested a move towards more sustainable foods.
Part One of the review, which was commissioned in June 2019 by the government’s then Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, was published in July 2020, with a second report following a year later.