June 14, 2022
The new, first of its kind strategy follows Henry Dimbleby's 2018 independent review of the UK food system and outlines the government's plans on health, sustainability, food waste, animal welfare and labelling.
In response to Covid-related supply chain pressures, post-Brexit strain on the UK’s labour market, and supply chain issues caused by the war in Ukraine, the strategy focuses heavily on boosting the UK’s domestic resilience. With increasing concern surrounding the impact of rising food prices on the cost-of-living crisis, it also seeks to mitigate against some of these impacts.
The full strategy is available to download from the gov.uk website. We have also summarised our key takeaways from each of the core areas it covers below.
As outlined by DEFRA, the objectives for the strategy are to deliver:
However, while the strategy covers many of the key issues addressed in Dimbleby’s 2018 review, there are several recommendations that have not been taken forward.
The most notable omission is the proposed High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) reformulation tax which would have placed additional levies on unhealthy foods. As with the governments planned restrictions on volume promotions for HFSS products (such as by-one, get-one-free), the proposed tax has been shelved by the government in direct response to the increased cost this would place on consumers.
To ensure resilience is maintained, the government will monitor the nation's food supply through a UK Food Security Report that will be published every three years.
With emissions from machinery and livestock contributing to heavily to climate change, the strategy also sets out measures to reduce the carbon footprint of UK food production.
As part of their partnership with UK Research and Innovation, the non-departmental public body that directs research and innovation funding, the government will build on their £130 million investment in research with a “Call for Evidence” to better understand the challenges associated with the use of materials that can reduce methane emissions from livestock.
This will consider the roles of automation, domestic labour, and migration to ensure UK businesses can access the labour they require.
Supporting healthier choices
With cost-of-living crisis showing no signs of abating, the strategy aims to promote healthier choices rather than increasing taxation. DEFRA say government should encourage innovation and “incentivise industry to reformulate and promote healthier food that is more accessible” by designing policy that drives improvements across the food environment.
The strategy also commits to launching a programme of pilots to test anti-obesity interventions and improve the evidence base for healthier diets.
In order to help consumers make more informed, sustainable and healthier choices, the government will ensure that the food information provided on labels, online and through QR codes is optimised and based upon a set of established overarching principles.
Stating that better-informed consumers can drive positive change from producers, the government has set out plans to introduce a new Food Data Transparency Partnership. This partnership will bring together representatives from across government, the supply chain and civil society who will collaborate to develop consistent metrics for better understanding the impact of food production.
GS1 UK welcomes the introduction of the Food Data Transparency Partnership. We believe this will be one of the most impactful areas as increasing collaboration between government and industry on the collection of accurate and consistent data will be a key factor in powering progress across the food system. This will not only enable government and industry adapt to change, plan for the future and implement new initiatives for producing healthier, more ethical and sustainable food, but will also play a key role in providing consumers with the clarity they need to make more informed food choices.
GS1 UK believes the Food Data Transparency Partnership outlined in the government’s National Food Strategy will provide the framework required to address the major issues such as supply chain resilience, health, food waste and sustainability. The government however needs to ensure the Partnership is set up for success and this can only be achieved by a UK wide approach and collaboration. Only then will the data be of the right quality to address the demands of consumers and industry alike.”
GS1 UK CEO
DEFRA has announced it will begin the implementation of mandatory reporting on health - and possibly sustainability and animal welfare - by the end of 2023. Large companies will be required to report on food sales and waste, with reporting requirements initially targeted at large companies across retail, manufacturing, out-of-home, food-to-go and online delivery businesses.
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