The government’s food strategy has been announced today.
Prof Judy Buttriss, Visiting Professor in the School of Biosciences and Medicine, University of Surrey; and Chair of Trustees, Academy of Nutrition Sciences, said:
“On alternative protein sources: an important consideration here, that is often overlooked, is the overall nutrient profile of alternative proteins, in particular: (i) the extent to which it reflects the nutrients provided by traditional protein sources, which are recognised as nutrient dense, (ii) the digestibility of the protein and (iii) the bioavailability of micronutrients present. Although not directly my area of expertise, also important is the overall environmental impact of the novel or alternative protein sources. In this respect, I am very pleased to see in the White Paper recognition that ‘nutrition and sustainability are interrelated and neither should be tackled in isolation’. The Food Data Transparency Partnership is a really important step in establishing a framework for collating and sharing robust and transparent data for decision making and communication with consumers.
“On meat consumption: it was reassuring to see that as well as funding innovation into alternative protein sources, there is recognition in the White Paper that ‘sustainable sources of protein do not have to be new or displace traditional sectors’. Lean meat, in moderation and produced with environmental impact in mind, can make an important contribution to our intake of a number of essential vitamins and minerals as well as protein.”
Dr Duane Mellor, Registered Dietitian and Senior Teaching Fellow, Aston Medical School, Aston University, said:
“It is unfortunate that the government has missed the opportunity to respond in a cross-department way to the food strategy. Instead appearing to choose to respond to it almost Whitehall department by department – resulting in a watered down response lacking connectivity and the ability to deal with the structural issues that need to be addressed to improve food production and security, public health and environmental impacts of food in the UK.
“It seems that altering our food system through use of levies to encourage reformulation of foods to reduce sugar and salt have been missed, this could have been relatively easily done and potentially used any income to reduce costs in other areas to support people hit hardest by the cost of living crisis such as increasing provision of free school meals.
“The investment in the food industry seems to be lacking, as a highly skilled food workforce is essential, from farming, through production and into public health. This is an area which could help linking education to industry again requiring connecting of policy across government and sectors to deliver real change.
“Food policies are challenging, but could help with so many aspects of our lives, and after so much work by Henry Dimbleby and his team, it is a shame that the response from government is incomplete.
“The debate about alternate protein sources to meat needs to be tackled from a number of sides, looking at what people want to eat, what they have capacity to prepare and afford to cook as well as nutritional and environmental considerations. This could be as simple as encouraging meat reduction – it does not have to be elimination – however this would need support in terms of marketing from making these types of meal more desirable through to tasting sessions to give families confidence to eat differently. It is interesting as partial replacement of meat can not only be environmentally more sound, often alternatives such as lentils can be considerably cheaper as well as being nutritionally good options.
“Finally, the focus on personal responsibility has been shown to not work, this almost blames individuals for their health issues which may be linked to diet. We live in a food environment which encourages consumption of highly palatable foods which are energy rich, high in fat, salt and sugar and are not great at switching off our hunger signals. It is not essential to stop or ban foods, but an effective food strategy should help to shape the food environment so healthier foods are more desirable, affordable and easier options so it can become the norm to eat healthily rather than what can often be a privileged choice.”
Prof Dominic Moran, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Edinburgh, said:
“A quick observation is that the failure to offer guidance on moderating meat consumption flies in the face of just about every bit of relevant research on the design of diets for planetary health; that is, diets that are consistent with global climate and national health goals, not to mention animal health and welfare objectives.”
Prof Judy Buttriss: “I am also a member of OHID’s UK Nutrition and Health Claims Committee and a member of the Global Food Security Strategy Advisory Board. I also sit on various UKRI panels on an ad hoc basis and am an editor in chief of the journal Nutrition Bulletin. Was formerly Director General of the British Nutrition Foundation (ended in 2021); more details about BNF’s work, funding and governance can be found at www.nutrition.org.uk/aboutbnf.”
Dr Duane Mellor: “Duane Mellor is a member of the British Dietetic Association and by personal choice is vegetarian.”
Prof Dominic Moran: “I declare no competing interesting other than being the PI on this recently awarded UKRI project on the future of livestock: https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=BB%2FW018152%2F1.”