‘It’s not a strategy’: Food tsar pours cold water on government’s vision for industry

The man behind a major review of the UK’s food system has criticised the government’s vision for the industry, saying it is “not a strategy”.

A draft of the government’s food strategy leaked last week ignored a number of recommendations from Leon founder Henry Dimbleby, including a salt and sugar tax, and government action on obesity.

It pushed things such as fish farming – long seen as environmentally-damaging, compulsory vegan meal options in schools, and animal welfare warnings on restaurant menus.

It also called for people to move towards eating “responsibly sourced venison” instead of other meats such as beef, although this is not in the final version of the strategy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised that the final version, to be launched today, would “back farmers, boost British industry and help protect people against the impacts of future economic shocks”.

The Guardian said Mr Dimbleby had been shown the final document, and had said “there was nothing really there on health”.

He added: “It’s not a strategy.

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“It doesn’t set out a clear vision as to why we have the problems we have now, and it doesn’t set out what needs to be done.”

In his review last year, Mr Dimbleby had also recommended greater environment and welfare standards in farming, a 30% reduction in meat and dairy consumption, and significant expansion of free school meals.

Read more:
Government food strategy tells public to eat venison instead of beef to save planet

He said: “With inflation as it is, both the amount spent on free school meals is significantly less in real terms than it was a year ago and the number of people who need it is significantly more – we need to tackle that.”

‘Boost British industry’

Mr Johnson said: “Our food strategy sets out a blueprint for how we will back farmers, boost British industry and help protect people against the impacts of future economic shocks by safeguarding our food security.

“Harnessing new technologies and innovation, we will grow and eat more of our own food – unlocking jobs across the country and growing the economy, which in turn will ultimately help to reduce pressure on prices.”

‘Vague intentions’

But Jim McMahon, Labour’s shadow secretary for environment, food and rural affairs, said: “This is nothing more than a statement of vague intentions, not a concrete proposal to tackle the major issues facing our country.”

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of farming group Sustain, said: “In the face of multiple crises in the cost of living, rocketing obesity, climate change and nature loss, the government food strategy looks shamefully weak.

“Government was given crystal clear analysis and a set of recommendations by the Dimbleby food strategy, and has chosen to take forward only a handful of them.”

The Food Foundation’s executive director, Anna Taylor, said: “It is a feeble interpretation of Henry Dimbleby’s recommendations, which will not be sufficient to drive the long-term change that we know is so urgently needed.”

Henry Dimbleby will be speaking to Sky News about the government’s response to his proposals at around 9.20am this morning.

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