What were once thought of as niche' products are now entering the mainstream: organics, free range eggs and Fair Trade products have all rapidly expanded and indicate that many consumers are prepared to pay a premium for features they judge important. But niche products are not the same as basic, good quality food and it is not clear to me why consumers should pay extra for basic quality. When the energy utilities were privatised something like 40% of costs were stripped out of the supply chain. I would like to see the same rigorous scrutiny of the food chain. This is particularly important for lower income consumers ­ where are they expected to fit in? They spend a much higher proportion of their income on food and often have no choice but to buy cheaper food, regardless of nutritional value, ethical considerations or safety concerns. All consumers have a right to good quality food at affordable prices and that means looking at the supply chain and other policies before assumptions are made about charging consumers more. In 1997, the Common Agricultural Policy cost the average family around £20 a week ­ through a mixture of taxes and artificially-high food prices. Perfectly good food is still being exported with the aid of subsidy or destroyed in order to maintain prices. Making sure that everyone can afford a nutritious diet is critical to the health of our nation. Everyone, from the farmer to the consumer, has a role to play in this ­ but it is not only about trying to extract more money from consumers. {{NEWS }}