National Food Strategy 2021: A quick outline


By Tim Wilkinson

The second part of the National Food Strategy was published on the 15th July in a two-part report: with one part proposing a set of recommendations (‘The Recommendations’ report) and the second presenting ‘The Evidence’. The independent review, led by Henry Dimbleby, makes 14 recommendations to government and presents evidence in four themes: nature and climate, health, inequality, and trade. There are two supplementary reports too: on the impact of a tax on added sugar and salt and a youth consultation. The reports published on the 15th July 2021 are sometimes called ‘Part Two’ of the National Food Strategy; they follow on from ‘Part One’, published in July 2020. But on the NFS website the bundle of reports are called ‘The Plan’. The Government will set out proposals for future legislation in a White Paper in six months.

In the ‘The Recommendations’ report, each recommendation is described, the rationale for it given and the costs and benefits reviewed. Endnotes provide references and further information. National Food Strategy recommendations are:

  1. Introduce a sugar and salt reformulation tax. Use some of the revenue to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low income families (p.2)
  2. Introduce mandatory reporting for large food companies. (p.11)
  3. Launch a new “Eat and Learn” initiative for schools. (p.14)
  4. Extend eligibility for free school meals. (p.20)
  5. Fund the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the next three years. (p.24)
  6. Expand the Healthy Start scheme. (p.27)
  7. Trial a “Community Eatwell” programme, supporting those on low incomes to improve their diets. (p.31)
  8. Guarantee the budget for agricultural payments until at least 2029 to help farmers transition to more sustainable land use. (p.35)
  9. Create a Rural Land Use Framework based on the Three Compartment Model. (p.42)
  10. Define minimum standards for trade, and a mechanism for protecting them. (p.47)
  11. Invest £1 billion in innovation to create a better food system. (p.50)
  12. Create a National Food System Data programme. (p.57)
  13. Strengthen government procurement rules to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on healthy and sustainable food. (p.61)
  14. Set clear targets and bring in legislation for long-term change (p.68)

News media headlines picked up the NFS calls for sugar and salt tax (for example, see The Guardian, Financial Times). This is Recommendation 1, and proposes the introduction of ‘a £3/kg tax on sugar and a £6/kg tax on salt sold for use in processed foods or in restaurants and catering businesses’ (NFS 2021, p.2). The BBC also highlighted the proposal about the prescription vegetables by the NHS (Recommendation 7, the trialling of a “Community Eatwell programme”) and the raising of taxes to extend free school meal provision (Recommendation 4). Boris Johnson’s initial response to the idea of new sugar and salt taxes was also well reported (e.g. see The Independent, The Daily Mail)

There has been a range of comment from the food and drink industry. The Food and Drink Federation, for example, raised concerns about the implications of the sugar and salt taxes and for consumers and businesses. Seafish highlight that seafood does not feature prominently in the report and emphasize the role of seafood in the nation’s diet. The National Farmers Union (NFU) response suggested making ‘a clear distinction between grass-fed British meat and cheap imports’. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) particularly welcomed the recommendation of improved food education in schools, while NGO Sustain provided detailed comment and reflection on a range of National Food Strategy proposals.

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