UK food security at risk

30th September 2019

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Lucy Wiltshire

Nearly a fifth of the UK's fruit and vegetables come from countries threatened by climate breakdown, leaving Britain's food security at risk, MPs have warned.

The Environmental Audit Committee said it was “deeply concerned“ about rising food prices, and accused the government of complacency over the risk posed by climate change.

Brexit has increased the threat, according to the MPs, who called on ministers to release all information about the food security and cost risks associated with a no-deal exit.

“We are facing a food security crisis, exacerbated by uncertainty over the UK's future trading position with the EU and the rest of the world, EAC chair, Mary Creagh, said.

Ministers must now publish all the information they hold from Operation Yellowhammer on food security and likely costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The EAC's Planetary Health inquiry considered the effect of environmental damage and climate change on health, food security, life in cities and air quality.

The MPs said they were “deeply concerned“ about the impact of food price rises on the poorest people in the UK, particularly vulnerable groups like children and pensioners.

They urged the government to ensure that its National Food Strategy recognises the risks to food security from an over-reliance on imports, and explore policies to mitigate these threats.

The EAC also urged the government to set up a National Food Council with policies covering food production, nutrition and public health to share data and expertise.

Further restrictions on advertising high fat, sugar and salt products are recommended, along with considering financial incentives to promote access to, and consumption of, healthy food.

Annual targets to reduce food waste at every level of the food supply chain, consistent with the government's aim to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest, are suggested too.

Moreover, the government is urged to set up a joint unit with a single point of accountability for planetary health at both ministerial and senior civil service levels and champion planetary health at forthcoming international meetings.

“More people are living in cities at risk from over-heating and water shortages, they're breathing polluted air, eating more fast food and getting less exercise,“ Creagh continued.

“What's needed is a planetary health champion to put this agenda at the heart of government.“

Image credit: ©iStock

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