Local procurement and waste reporting served up in government food plan but no obesity measures

13 June 2022 by
Local procurement and waste reporting served up in government food plan but no obesity measures

A bid to transform public sector food procurement and catering has been announced as part of the government food strategy, which has been criticised for failing to tackle the obesity crisis.

A consultation into changes impacting caterers was launched this morning (13 June) alongside the publication of wider proposals, which omitted many of the health-related recommendations made in Henry Dimbleby's National Food Strategy report.

Among the policies that impact catering are ambitions for 50% of produce purchased to be local or certified to higher environmental standards; mandatory food waste reporting for businesses over a certain size and mandatory reporting of health, sustainability and animal welfare metrics by large companies across retail, manufacturing, out of home, food to go and online delivery businesses.

The government said it also plans to open public sector supply chains to more small and medium-sized businesses to "better support local economies, increase resilience, and encourage food producers to innovate".

A number of health policies put forward by Dimbleby in response to the obesity crisis (the latest data shows that around 64% of adults and 40% of children in England are overweight or living with obesity) were not included in the report, with the government seemingly opting for independent responsibility over state intervention in people's choices of what to eat.

Dimbleby's recommendations, published in 2021, had suggested a £3/kg levy on sugar and a £6/kg tax on salt sold for use in processed food or in restaurants and catering businesses. It had been proposed that some of the proceeds from the tax would be used to increase the number of free school meals and help low-income families access fruit and vegetables. He had also recommended a renewed investment in food and nutrition education from early years onwards.

In response to today's announcement the Leon founder accused the government of having "kicked [the health agenda] down the road".

He tweeted: "We need to change the narrative, so people understand that a healthy nation is the bedrock of a strong economy and that the only way to break the Junk Food Cycle is through state intervention."

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation said: "Today's White Paper shows that no one in leadership in government appears to have really grasped the scale and urgency of the challenges posed to our health and our planet by the food system.

"What's more, these challenges are growing exponentially with the cost of living crisis. Despite its name, the whole document is lacking a strategy to transition the food system towards delivering good food which is accessible to everyone."

Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine and the resulting increases to food prices has highlighted the need for greater food security and the government has said it aims to strengthen the resilience of supply chains and boost domestic food production with £270m earmarked for farming innovation funding programmes.

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