Defra has appointed Leon co-founder Henry Dimbleby to lead what it is describing as the “first major review of the UK food system in 75 years”.
Dimbleby will investigate the entire food system, from field to fork, as part of work to formulate a “trailblazing” National Food Strategy for England, which will be published next year.
The restaurateur planned to scrutinise the sector to consider what changes were required to ensure it delivered “safe, healthy, affordable food, regardless of where people live or how much they earn”, Defra said, and was “robust in the face of future shocks”.
Dimbleby would also consider changes that would allow the sector to restore and enhance the natural environment, and to create both a financially and environmentally resilient and sustainable agriculture sector.
The review comes a year and a half after The Grocer revealed Defra had shelved the much-vaunted 25-year food and farming plan launched by former environment secretary Liz Truss in 2015. It also follows criticism of incumbent Michael Gove for ignoring the food sector while concentrating more on environmental concerns.
The announcement was largely welcomed by key industry representatives, with NFU president Minette Batters describing the initiative as “long overdue”.
“It is crucial this strategy delivers for everyone – from food producers to families across the country, regardless of their income,” she added. “Safe, traceable, affordable food that is produced to high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection is a right for all and British farmers should be the number one supplier of this.”
The strategy had the chance to “support the transition to environmentally friendly farming and fishing”, said Kath Dalmeny, CEO of the Sustain food and farming alliance.
Holistic approach to food & drink policymaking
“We applaud Michael Gove’s bold commitment to create a National Food Strategy for England, and embed a holistic approach to policymaking across food and drink,” added FDF CEO Ian Wright.
“Leaving the EU is a great opportunity for British farmers and food producers,” said Gove. “But with an expanding population, the urgent threat of climate change and rising levels of diet-related disease, we face many challenges too.”
For these reasons, the time was “right for us to look afresh at our food system to ensure everyone has access to high-quality British food and our environment is protected for future generations”, he said.
“No part of our economy matters more than food. It is vital to life and shapes our sense of identity,” Dimbleby said.
“But there are urgent challenges with which we must grapple. Populations are growing, diet-related conditions are harming the lives of millions, and climate change is altering what our land will yield.
“From farmers in the field to chefs in the kitchen, over the next year I’ll be speaking with people from across the food chain to address these challenges and ensure everyone has a say in shaping the future.”