(Bloomberg) — The U.K. government was criticized by three of the nation’s senior food policy experts over failing to safeguard food supplies and support healthy diets in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis and Brexit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is lacking focus on healthy eating as part of its response to the pandemic and needs to do more to safeguard food supplies and, according to academics Terry Marsden, Erik Millstone and Tim Lang. In an open letter, they also urged Johnson to invest in adequate infrastructure to ensure food security.
Food has been an embarrassing issue for Johnson, who was forced into a U-turn over the provision of free school meals after campaigning from soccer star Marcus Rashford. Earlier this month, Rashford put his name to a letter calling for an urgent review in the provision of food to the poorest children.
“Food poverty is now in the neo-Victorian mode of relying on food banks, but they cannot keep up with rising demand,” said Millstone, a professor at the University of Sussex. “Poor diet and poor health has undoubtedly contributed to the U.K.’s appalling Covid death rate, particularly among families on low incomes, and this needs to be the catalyst for a major change.”
While there had been some emergency measures to smooth trade after the Brexit transition, not enough has been done to improve preparation among consumers for potential food crises, the academics said. Both in Brexit and the Covid-19 emergency, U.K. consumers have been left without advice as to what to do to protect their own food security, they added.
Recommendations the academics called for include:
Deploying resources from the closed hospitality sector to provide emergency food centers.Instructing government organizations to produce nutritional advice on foods consumers should be choosing to protect themselves against the threat of Covid-19.Creating an independent council to provide advice on the long-term direction for the U.K. agri-food system to improve food security.
(Updates with additional comment in fifth paragraph.)
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