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6 Jul 2020
The UK’s food system is failing, putting the health of the population, and of the planet, at risk according to the House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment. The Committee calls on the Government to end years of inaction and ensure that a healthy, sustainable diet is accessible for everyone.
The committee wants the Government "without delay" to:
• Start to measure how many people live with food insecurity, and analyse why.
• Understand the cost of a healthy diet and incorporate this into benefits calculations.
• Act to curb excessive advertising and promotion of unhealthy foods by the food industry.
• Step up pressure on the food industry to reduce sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and calories in processed food, and introduce mandatory requirements where change has not happened.
• Ensure that food initiatives for disadvantaged children, such as Healthy Start and free school meals are properly funded, implemented and monitored.
• Establish an independent body to oversee the implementation of a National Food Strategy and report annually to Parliament on progress.
• Use the opportunity of the Agriculture Bill to encourage production and consumption of healthier food and ensure that it delivers the public environmental goods it is designed to.
The Committee explored a number of aspects in relation to fresh fruit and vegetables, with the following comments in the report:
“The UK population’s fruit and vegetable consumption is low. The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that only 31% of adults, 32% of 65- to 74-year-olds and 8% of teenagers meet the 5 a Day recommendation for fruit and vegetables.42 The National Diet and Nutrition Survey also found that over the period 2008/09-2016/17, there was little change in fruit and vegetable consumption, with all age and sex groups showing a mean intake of below the 5 a day recommendation.
Those in the poorest deciles are even less likely to meet recommendations on healthy eating guidance. Evidence from the Food Foundation, LSHTM and SHEFS stated that: “The poorest households only purchase 3.2 portions of fruit and vegetables per day”45 and that only “17% of the poorest decile were consuming sufficient fruit and vegetables compared with 26% in the general population.”
“The National Food Strategy should outline a comprehensive action plan to increase the demand for and consumption of fruit and vegetables. The quantity of fruit and vegetables grown in the UK is not necessarily the limiting factor in consumption. Given the many barriers we identified to a healthy diet, we believe that subsidising production would be unlikely to solve many of the accessibility problems that prevent people from eating the recommended quantities of fruit and vegetables.”
“Analysis from the Food and Climate Research Network found that much overseas grown produce transported by sea was fairly low in greenhouse gas intensity. It argued that growing all fruit and vegetables in the UK “is unlikely to be ‘the’ optimal answer since there are trade-offs between import related transport and mobile cold storage emissions on the one hand and waste and stationary cold storage emissions through the storage of indigenous food on the other.”
“We recommend that Government should list Public Health as a ‘Public Good’ under Clause One of the Agriculture Bill. Measures eligible for financial assistance to improve public health should be focussed on (but not necessarily limited to) those activities which increase demand for fruits and vegetables.”
For more information see the Report: Hungry For Change: fixing the failures in food (PDF) and Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment