EFRA calls on government for detailed response to Henry Dimbleby’s recommendations, including a full impact assessment on a tax on foods high in sugar and salt
A fifth of UK households are resorting to unhealthy, high-calorie diets due to trouble accessing good quality food at reasonable prices. This is according to an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee report addressing the availability and affordability of food from household to the national level.
The promotion of cheap, calorie-dense foods lacking essential nutrients has resulted in 30% of the population becoming obese. This figure is expected to rise to 40% by 2035, with NHS spending on Type 2 diabetes treatments outweighing current expenditure on treating all cancers, the report says.
“Obesity is a chronic, complex, relapsing condition with multiple factors impacting its development including genetics, psychology, and biology alongside social factors such as poverty,” said Dr Adrian Brown, Senior Research Fellow/Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics at UCL. “Often, food choices in those living with obesity and food insecurity are made through financial constraints rather than knowledge of a healthy diet.
“Recent research from our BBSRC Food Insecurity in Obesity (FIO-Food) project suggests that for people living with obesity, the rising cost of healthier food creates a food-insecure environment, not related to access to food, but rather, access to affordable and healthier food,” Brown continued. “The recommendations highlight many important areas the government should be aiming to action including annual reporting of the UK Food Security Report.”
“…rising demand following the pandemic, ramifications of Brexit, climate change and the Ukraine war have led to the highest food prices seen in 45 years...”
The increase in food insecurity is partly because consumer price inflation is at its highest rate in over 40 years, meaning many households are resorting to money-saving measures like skipping meals, the report says. The Committee is calling for the government to review whether income support packages were enough to stop people from turning to food banks.
“An interplay of factors including rising demand following the pandemic, ramifications of Brexit, climate change and the Ukraine war have led to the highest food prices seen in 45 years, leaving many families struggling to afford food,” said Shona Goudie, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer, Food Foundation. “Our evidence shows that more healthy foods are over twice as expensive as less healthy options meaning that families will be pushed towards food that is damaging to their health in the face of these high prices.”
The types of food we eat and the nation’s health was linked by food tsar Henry Dimbleby in July 2021, and he recommended a tax on foods high in sugar and salt, which the government’s National Food Strategy failed to adopt. The Committee wants a detailed response to Dimbleby’s recommendations from the government, and an annual analysis of all food security issues, including a full impact assessment on the introduction of a tax on foods high in sugar and salt.
“Food security matters to us all," said Sir Robert Goodwill, Chair of the EFRA Committee. "It is vital to farmers; it is vital to other food producers. And of course, it is vital for every citizen…to have a square meal at a reasonable price. This report is calling, through its various recommendations, for much more attention to be paid to the guaranteed supply of good quality food - at prices which suit both producers and consumers.”
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