The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) yesterday gave evidence to the independent Policy Commission on Farming and Food.

The food and drink industry – the UK’s largest manufacturing industry – set out its vision of farming and food as:

The provision of the widest possible choice of high quality, safe, wholesome food at affordable prices produced in accordance with the principles of good husbandry and manufacturing, sound economics and high ethical and sustainable environmental standards.

It outlined the following problems:

  • public confidence in the safety of the food supply is fragile
  • it is increasingly difficult to attract investment by multinationals for new manufacturing plant in the UK (currency issues, poor image etc)
  • The sector is heavily regulated: where procedures are slow and unpredictable this impacts on competitiveness

It called for:

In the short term

  • Improved awareness in Government decision making of the importance of the UK food supply chain to the national economy and the need to maintain and promote its competitiveness
  • Better understanding by Government of the need for profitability across the chain if it is going to be sustainable
  • A Government programme to improve consumers’ understanding of food labelling
  • Environmental measures within reasonable boundaries, e.g. increases in the UK recovery and recycling targets for packaging waste should be linked to reliable data and recovery capacity
  • Improved resourcing of UK food law enforcement

In the medium to long term

  • Recognition of the need for a strong, internationally competitive home production base
  • Work to rebuild the UK’s export markets and improve the image of British food at home and abroad
  • Increased trade liberalization – it is only by being competitive internationally that the UK food and drink industry can be maintained
  • Preservation of flexibility in the UK labour market
  • Radical new measures to give UK legal force to EU Directives, through direct reference to the English version of the EU text
  • Application of EU food hygiene legislation to all food businesses, requiring them to operate to HACCP principles
  • An IPPC regime in line with the sector’s generally low polluter status
  • Maintenance of export refunds as long as CAP raw material costs remain higher than world prices
  • CAP reform that encourages farmers to be more responsive to market demands
  • Increased public funding for research available for food manufacturing – currently there is only £2m from DEFRA, compared with the FSA’s £25m research budget
  • Better communication by Government and industry, including public information programmes on key issues in the food debate
  • Work to improve the negative view of science and technology
  • A common EU framework and rules on product nutritional and functional claims

Background notes

  1. The Food and Drink Federation represents the UK food and drink manufacturing sector with 500,000 employees – 11% of the total workforce.  This is the single largest manufacturing sector, with food and drink accounting for 21.5% of total consumers expenditure.