Steve Brine has welcomed what he called a “thoughtful” piece of work as the Government unveiled its new Food Strategy to the House of Commons (Monday).
The MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford, who is himself a former Public Health Minister, welcomed the Government’s position specifically around farming and domestic production. And he praised a new approach on meat consumption which doesn’t force people to eat less but embraces new technology to counter the environmental impact of methane emissions from livestock.
But Mr Brine questioned the lack of action on food high in fat, sugar and salt which had been recommended for a new levy, similar to the previously implemented sugar tax on soft drinks, by Henry Dimbleby’s high-profile review.
The MP told the Secretary of State for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, George Eustice MP, “He knows that I put together the prevention Green Paper while at the Department of Health which built on the sugar tax, which led to the sensible reformulation of soft drinks. It did not push up costs to the consumer, because the industry reformulated its products.
“That document, agreed across Government, had proposals to extend that winning formula to other products high in fat, salt and sugar and I am disappointed it hasn’t happened.”
He added; “We can kick this into the long grass but we’re storing up obesity, type 2 Diabetes and stroke, which we're increasingly seeing in younger people, for the future.”
The Secretary of State, George Eustice MP, assured Mr Brine; “We are not kicking it into the long grass. The soft drinks levy was indeed a tremendous success because it was relatively easy to take sugar out of soft drinks because it's only a sweetener and you can drive reformulation quite simply. In some other ingredients, like chocolate and cakes and so on, sugar is a different type of ingredient that's it harder to reformulate and take out.”
Mr Eustice went on to confirm that the Government would be introducing new point of sale restrictions on foods that are high in salt, fat or sugar later this year.
Speaking after the exchange, Steve Brine said; “Industry is up for this and reformulation is hard but far from impossible and, indeed, the big confectionary companies for-example have already done it. As a publicly funded health system we have a right, and I would argue a responsibility, to act and prevent as much ill-heath as possible.”