Who is responsible for healthy eating?’ That’s the question I’ll be debating at Food & Drink Expo on 18 April 2016, alongside a distinguished panel of experts.
In my view there are actually two key questions: ‘who is accountable for healthy eating?’ and ‘who is responsible for encouraging healthy eating?’. At the risk of spoiling my big reveal, let me tell you now that my answers will be, respectively, ‘the individual’, and ‘practically everyone’. I believe we are all accountable for what we eat and drink. I never want to live in a country where the government can ban me from eating things because some bureaucrat considers them bad for me. Nor do I want my favourite foods and drinks to change beyond recognition.
But responsibility for encouraging people to eat healthily must fall far and wide. It must include the government, healthcare professionals, teachers, local authorities and, of course, all of us who have a stake in this industry: farmers, suppliers, retailers and out-of-home outlets.
The food industry is subject to the toughest regulator of all - the consumer. Food and drink businesses only thrive if they respond quickly to consumer desires. Innovation will only succeed if it taps into emerging trends. That’s why almost 60% of all soft drinks sold in the UK are no or low-sugar and why the industry has continued to reformulate and innovate to provide more healthy options. That’s why it voluntarily adopted front-of-pack labelling that allows consumers to know the key nutrients in the product.
Though we are sometimes caricatured as faceless, the food industry I have come to know since I joined the FDF last year is actually led by food people like you and me, who look after amazing brands and who care deeply about not only their business’ continuing success but also about integrity and reputation.
Britain enjoys today a wider range of high-quality, enjoyable food and drink than ever before. That’s something we should be proud of. We will keep working to ensure consumers have relevant and meaningful information to inform their choices. But in the end it will be their choice.
Tim Rycroft is corporate affairs director at the FDF