Government Food Strategy: Key health takeaways

Date : 17 June 2022

Lizzy McHugh

Health and Sustainable Diets Associate

What do you need to know about the new Government Food Strategy?

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently released the Government Food Strategy1 as a response to the independent review undertaken by Henry Dimbleby and team. Below are some of the key health takeaways.

The strategy does highlight the “growing problem of obesity” with the noting of the £6.1 billion obesity related cost to the NHS per year, reference to the “Junk Food Cycle” termed by the independent review as well as the disparity of the problem across income groups and regions. It sets out an objective for a food system that, amongst other aims, provides access to “healthier and home-grown diets for all”. By increasing the proportion of healthier food sold there is an ambitious goal to halve childhood obesity by 2030, add 5 years to the healthy life expectancy (HLE) by 2035 and reduce the inequality in HLE across localities.

Throughout, the strategy acknowledged the importance of working across industry and wider society to achieve healthier and sustainable diets, with recognition of previous reformulation work and campaigns such as “Veg Power” to promote vegetable consumption.

The action proposed is collaborative, spanning industry, academics, and civil society to:

  • Develop a programme of randomised control trials to directly inform policy and determine best practice for interventions to encourage healthier and more sustainable diets
  • Promote further research into topics such as ultra-processed foods to further advance understanding of how food relates to health
  • Facilitate data sharing with the Food Data Transparency Partnership in order to best establish metrics for mandatory reporting of health outcomes for business
  • Review front of pack labelling to strengthen nutrition information and support consumers to make healthier choices
  • Increase investment in British grown protein sources such as seafood, non-traditional livestock, beans and pulses

Within the public sector, there was also mention of schools, Local Food Partnerships, work at a primary care level and the development of Government Buying standards.

£5 million of funding was announced for schools to develop their food programmes with a goal of students leaving school capable of cooking six basic healthy recipes. The British Nutrition Foundation welcomed this proposal but reiterated the importance of healthy eating as “more than cooking” and called for an expansion of free school meals, given the cost-of-living crisis2. Further details on plans to tackle obesity and health related inequalities have been promised in the upcoming Health Disparities paper.

The publication has been criticised for a lack of urgency around health as well as missing clear measurable actions, but the proposals contained within it do reiterate the importance of working together across industry to face the issues with evidence-based action. IGD supports this ambition to collaboratively work with industry to create a more transparent food system – read more here.

1Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2022), Government Food Strategy

2British Nutrition Foundation (2022), The British Nutrition Foundation responds to the Government’s White Paper on the Food Strategy for England