Fear food strategy white paper will be delayed
The architect of the National Food Strategy to tackle obesity and create healthy food systems is skeptical of the government’s commitment to publishing its response to the white paper in May.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ response to the first independent review of Britain’s food system in 75 years has already been delayed from early spring until May.
Today the report’s lead, food entrepreneur Henry Dimbleby, said other political considerations meant it could be pushed back to the end of the year.
Speaking at a public health conference organized by the Local Government Association and the Association of Public Health Directors, Mr Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon restaurants, said: ‘I strongly suspect that the war in Ukraine is going as badly as many people think. it goes, that there will be no political space in May to publish a food strategy.
“I think we’re going to have a horrific cost of living crisis plus a migration crisis, and it’s going to take up all the political space, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets pushed back to the end of the year.
However, Defra told LGC that it still expects the white paper to be released in the spring, after the pre-election period for local elections.
Mr Dimbleby expressed the ‘hope’ that some of the recommendations in his strategy would be channeled into a white paper on health disparities which the Department of Health and Social Care said it would publish this year.
But the historic blueprint of the strategy to introduce the world’s first salt and sugar reformulation tax, which the media has tended to focus on, is “unlikely to be in this situation”. [white paper] this year, just because it’s politically very difficult because of the cost of living,” Dimbleby explained.
But he hoped it would be implemented at a later date, saying: “Without doing [salt and sugar] less profitable, we won’t get the change we need.”
Mr Dimbleby also hoped that, with Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty ‘understanding’ the problem of obesity, ‘we might actually see something substantial from the government in terms of what local authorities can do’ .
He said that although there had been “unnecessary mistrust between government and local authorities over the past few years”, efforts by councils to “bring together” the holiday activity and food program during the pandemic “with very short time scales and impact assessments, have hopefully changed that.”
Mr Dimbleby said that although local authorities did not have ‘great levers’ such as tax levies to rely on, some were ‘getting it right in schools, supermarkets and elsewhere in society’ by “finding the people in your schools and hospitals who want to make a difference and connecting them with people who can help them do so”.
He warned of the scale of the obesity problem, saying it “will get worse before it gets better.
“The NHS now thinks that by 2035 it will spend more on curing type 2 diabetes than it does on all cancers today. We must [change food systems]or the NHS will collapse – and there will be no money for anything else.”
And he proposed that public health directors engage with junk food companies to address the problem.
“There are enough people in the food system who want to make the switch, but they’re just as trapped in the junk food cycle as we are,” he said.
“We need to find a way to have a conversation between them and the public health officials where they can actually share ideas about what intervention is needed, rather than being kind of a crossover. And that discussion isn’t happening. not run locally.
“Public health, in private, can reach out to business and start having these conversations that will hopefully become more public and more serious about solving a big problem.”