“An ideological arm wrestle” within the Conservative party contributed to the drastic watering down of the Government’s Food Strategy, published earlier this week.
That was suggestion made by Henry Dimbleby, the food entrepreneur, in an interview with the Today programme on Monday.
In his review, Dimbleby made a number of high-profile suggestions, including a significant expansion to free school meals, greater environment and welfare standards in farming, and a 30% reduction in meat and dairy consumption. On diet and public health, Dimbleby recommended a sugar and salt tax to fund healthy food options for those in poverty.
Many of these recommendations are entirely omitted in the Government’s new Food Strategy, or have been shunted into an upcoming health inequalities white paper.
Questioned why the Government had failed to include key measures such as meat reduction targets in its white paper, the environment secretary, George Eustice, repeatedly told media outlets that the Government did not intend to “lecture people about what they should eat”.
Interviewed by the BBC’s Mischal Husain, Dimbleby said that the Government’s new white paper was “not a strategy” and left “much to do on the environment”. Major health recommendations had been moved into “wait and see” territory. He acknowledged that the Government had put into practice about “50% of what I recommended” but insisted that its new white paper “lacks a single clear vision across the whole system, uniting all the Government departments.
“I just don’t think areas such as poverty reduction strategy can be achieved without strong government intervention. In what I have called the junk food cycle, there remains a toxic relationship between the commercial interests of companies and our evolved appetite”
“There is clearly an ideological arm wrestle going on between the complete free-market view of society, and one in which you understand the need for free markets in some areas to be regulated to avoid externalities, to avoid the problems they create, the pollution they create in society – and part of that pollution is the impact on health. I just don’t think areas such as poverty reduction strategy can be achieved without strong government intervention. In what I have called the junk food cycle, there remains a toxic relationship between the commercial interests of companies and our evolved appetite.”