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In June 2019, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, commissioned Henry Dimbleby to conduct an independent review to help the government create its first National Food Strategy for 75 years. The purpose of the review was to address the environmental and health problems caused by our food system, to ensure the security of our food supply, and to maximise the benefits of the coming revolution in agricultural technology.

The National Food Strategy was intended to be an overarching strategy for government, designed to ensure that the food system delivers safe, healthy, affordable food, regardless of where people live or how much they earn.

The scope of the National Food Strategy is England, but the terms of reference stated that the strategy will consider our relationships with the devolved administrations, the European Union and our other trading partners.

Part One of the National Food Strategy was published in July 2020. Part Two was published in July 2021.

Henry Dimbleby’s original intention was for Part One to be “a broad analysis of the strengths and flaws of the entire food system from farm to fork, with Part Two following on behind with recommendations”. However, “COVID-19 intervened, and Part One became instead an urgent response to the issues of hunger and ill health raised by the pandemic, as well as the trade and food standards issues created by the end of the EU Exit transition period”.

Recommendations relating to public health included:

Recommendation 1: Introduce a Sugar and Salt Reformulation Tax. Use some of the revenue to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low-income families.

Recommendation 2: Introduce mandatory reporting for large food companies.

Recommendation 3: Launch a new “Eat and Learn” initiative for schools.

Recommendation 4: Extend eligibility for free school meals.

Recommendation 5: Fund the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the next three years.

Recommendation 6: Expand the Healthy Start scheme.

Recommendation 7: Trial a “Community Eatwell” programme, supporting those on low incomes to improve their diets.

Recommendation 13. Strengthen government procurement rules to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on healthy and sustainable food.

The National Food Strategy has been broadly welcomed, but the food and drink manufacturing industry has opposed the proposal to introduce a sugar and salt reformulation tax.

The Government has promised to respond formally with a Food Strategy in the form of a White Paper within 6 months of publication of the National Food Strategy.

Documents to download

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