Blog: Ben CooperFood policy returns to focus in Westminster

Ben Cooper | 27 April 2017

Amid the political turmoil in the UK caused by the EU Referendum, the resignation of a Prime Minister, subsequent burning debates over the Brexit “divorce” settlement and now by the surprise announcement of a general election, it is easy to forget food policy was briefly elevated up the political agenda last year.

Specifically, there was much discussion about how sugar consumption could be reduced, culminating in the launch of the government’s long-awaited action plan to tackle childhood obesity. In a year that served up some of the greatest political surprises for decades, the government’s announcement earlier in the year of a levy on sugary soft drinks – subsequently included in the action plan – represented a tasty hors d’oeuvre ahead of the seismic political shocks that were to follow.

This morning at the Glazier’s Hall in London, food policy relating to sugar reduction is the subject of a Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum keynote seminar, looking specifically at reformulation, consumer choices and regulation.

Food policy is rarely a major feature of election campaigns - and this year’s UK general election is likely to be no exception given the dominance of questions over Brexit - but campaigners were buoyed that the soft drinks levy was one of the remaining pieces of legislation in the last parliament that was squeezed in before its early termination. It will be introduced next April as planned.

Implementation of other elements of the strategy has also continued since last August, notably the publication by Public Health England last month of the official guidelines for industry on sugar reduction in food products.

The soft drinks levy and how measures relating to food labelling and reformulation may help in reducing sugar consumption and childhood obesity will be discussed this morning, by politicians and campaigners along with representatives from industry and public health, all probably quite glad not to be hearing about or discussing Brexit for a few hours. just-food will be there too.

Ben's subsequent column can be found here.

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