First published at Food Matters Live 30/04/15
The manifestos have been written, the debates are underway and the media coverage of the each Party’s intentions is inescapable. The obvious topics, such as the NHS and Education, are given much airtime. Yet there is a clanger-dropping omission in terms of party policies regarding possible preventative actions relating to public health, and therefore health spending, and in particular those activities relating to nutrition.
What follows is a brief examination of the key party manifestos with a specific focus on their consideration of nutrition and the part it plays in preventative healthcare. To focus this short article, the key party manifestos will be searched for the following words; (1) nutrition or nutritious, (2) obesity, (3) salt, (4) sugar, (5) diet.
Table: Count of nutrition related words in the 2015 political party manifestos
‘Nutrition’ is used once in the Conservative manifesto and although commendable, it is actually in relation to helping the world’s poorest populations. ‘Obesity’ occurs three times; twice regarding targeted support for those with long-term yet treatable illnesses in an aim to get them back to work, and thirdly, in a statement that vows to ‘take action to reduce childhood obesity and continue to promote clear food information’, although no details support this promise. ‘Salt’, ‘sugar’ and ‘diet’ do not feature at all. The Conservatives make no claims about improving education relating to diet, but they maintain that free school meals for infants will stay.
Labour describes a preventative public health plan designed to ‘improve outcomes and tackle inequalities’ with actions, for example, aimed at reducing obesity and other diet related conditions. Preventatively, Labour promises to ‘set maximum permitted levels of sugar, salt and fat in foods marketed substantially to children’. This sounds like a positive move, from a public health angle, but will provide significant challenges for the food industry. Will there be R&D support for food businesses to meet this challenge? Labour makes no claims about school meal provision.
In the event of a coalition type scenario, it is worth considering what the other parties have to say on matters of nutrition.
The Liberal Democrats want to provide ‘support and advice for parents on early child nutrition and breastfeeding’ through the availability of children’s centres. They would also like to see a fat, sugar and salt traffic light system for restaurant and take-away foods. The Lib Dems want to extend free school meals to juniors as well as infants.
The SNP have little to say on nutrition, although they will be maintaining the free school meals for primary years 1 to 3.
The Green Party, leading this round of buzz-word bingo, articulate their vision in rather more detail than the others. They speak of a ‘need to ensure that nutritious food is available to everyone at prices they can afford’. The mechanism to bring this to fruition will be to ‘extend VAT at the standard rate to less healthy foods, including sugar, but spend the money raised on subsidising around one-third of the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables”, although how this would work in practice is not clear. The Greens appear to be the only party suggesting a way to properly educate our future generations on healthy living with their aim to provide ‘free nutritious lunches with local and GM-free ingredients, and children involved in growing, preparing and cooking food where possible”. A longer termed vision, albeit with no clarity around how this would work in practice.
UKIP fail to mention any of the key words that relate to nutrition. Their food comments extend to supporting GM foods and promising to bring the control of food labelling back to Westminster.
In summary, there are a couple of positive actions scattered amongst the parties, albeit with a bias on stick rather than carrot, pardon the pun. Most of these comments are sticking plasters, representing a short-termed view, which of course is a reflection of the governmental term of office. Given the potential opportunities available to educate future generations in the ways of healthy eating, plus the very real knock-on effects of preventing poor health, reducing food waste, creating a more sustainable environment and lessening our dependency on food imports, the parties should be forced to give this topic the credence it deserves and evaluate all aspects of nutrition in a truly holistic manner.
The Aurora Ceres Partnership Ltd was established to help the food and beverage industry create value and excellence through informed innovation management and will be exhibiting and speaking at Food Matters Live 2015.
First published at Food Matters Live 30/04/15