Feedtest – Written evidence (FPO0086)

 

1/ It is doubtful if food insecurity is a reasonable definition of the problem. It is really economic insecurity which may be due to low income or inadequate financial planning. As shown in the attached paper, nutritionally adequate diets can be constructed at low cost. Education on financial planning, in whatever format is probably the only answer to this. Increasing use of food banks is sometimes used for political advantage but does not necessarily indicate decreased availability of food.

2/ Whereas in the past malnutrition has been problematical, the main health difficulty now is complete availability of food leading to obesity and consequent health outcomes. The only real answer to this is education as to the problem. More definite marketing and educational methods may be needed.

3/ The truth is all food available is healthy taken in correct dietary quantities. In to-day’s world these are all accessible. Rural populations may have a more traditional diet probably at lower cost.

4/ Most local authorities provide facilities towards more exercise. A more joined-up approach by education and health bodies might help. Generally, G.Ps. while encouraging exercise are understandably reluctant to say too much about overweight.

5/ They could help through education. However, similar bodies have always been needed for charitable             purposes e g. Soup kitchens during the Great Depression in the world’s wealthiest economy.

6/ Food processing tends to come in for criticism but largely they provide what the consumer desires. Portion size is an unproven point – a consumer may simply eat more of something else for satiety. Lower income groups are likely to chose larger portion size since it is better value for money.

7/ In broad terms the U.K. uses around half it’s food expenditure at grocery outlets and half at service outlets. However, the service outlets provide just 25% of nutrient supply which means a cost ratio of approx. 3.1 for service/grocery.

8/ Foods could be designed to provide “the perfect balance” in which nutrient supply fits all health advice. The difficulty is that this would be needed on a full-day basis and could limit choice and desire. Government regulation would seem to be a step too far in a personal matter such as food consumption. Advice would seem the best that can be done.

9/ The U.K. has the land resource to provide self-sufficiency in healthy, affordable food with potential for considerably increasing exports. The achievement of this will depend on a combination of agricultural efficiency and returns to farmers. Vegetable production in the U.K. has declined presumably due to insufficient business return. As shown on the attached paper, contrary to popular thinking an increase in efficient U.K. agriculture would actually improve global environmental sustainability.

10/ Pillars of sustainability have been described as economic, social and environmental. Economic sustainability underpins the supply of healthy food in the U.K. Environmental sustainability concerns in food production are important and are, in general, being addressed. They do and should not provide any limitation to food production. (see attached paper)

11/ Local authorities have highlighted the problem of food waste. Education on household budgeting is probably needed for further reduction. Simple advertorial approaches e g. Throwing banknotes in litter bins (£10/week for U.K. households) might be useful.

12/ More investment in information and education is needed. Fiscal measures such as the sugar tax on soft drinks highlighted the problem and brought about change in formulation. A study on the effects of this would be useful addressing among other things – Did calorie consumption reduce? Was there an overall price rise in branded soft drinks?  Apart from interference with rights, it would be too complex to obtain a baseline and administer regulation. Presumably, public procurement does already provide some measure of dietary balance.

13/ Continuing research needed

14/ The U.K. should have sufficient expertise to develop its own food and health policies related to its geographical position. The problems are global in developed and developing countries.

15/ There may be a need to co-ordinate more fully economic, health, agricultural, environmental, social services, production and retail interests.

Consideration could be given to a single body e.g. “Healthy Food for the U.K.” representing all of these.

 

Wilfrid H. Crawford

 

1 October 2019