Henry Dimbleby

Dimbleby wrote the book while he was the government’s food tsar

Henry Dimbleby’s latest book must be one of the most exhaustively researched works of all time – certainly when it comes to the food industry.

Four years of workshops – interrupted by Brexit and Covid – interviews with industry “free thinkers” and countless Whitehall encounters with hapless politicians culminates in a comprehensive drubbing of the UK’s food system and the ministers pulling the strings.

And let’s not forget Dimbleby wrote Ravenous: How to Get Ourselves and Our Planet Into Shape (published by Profile, £16.99) all while he was the government’s food tsar, until he quit/his term ran out last week (you decide). But will it prove more influential than the National Food Strategy itself?

In truth, it always felt as if Dimbleby’s mission to reinvent the food system would turn sour sooner or later.

He describes one episode meeting a room full of industry hawks, eager to take down plans for a clampdown on junk food ads. “I should have sensed it was too good to be true,” Dimbleby writes. “It was a masterclass of spurious argument, obfuscation and the sowing of doubt.”

The author has called on wife Jemima Lewis – as if any more journalist backup was needed – as co-writer. Together, they have produced a passionate appeal for people to eat less meat and for the industry to change its production methods before it kills us and the planet.

The appendix listing government progress makes depressing reading. A sorry tale of “reneged promises” and “no action” means we are “sitting on an obesity timebomb”.