Defra secretary Michael Gove has appointed restaurant businessman Henry Dimbleby to lead a farm-to-fork review of England’s food system.
Recommendations from the review will form a new food strategy that is “built upon a resilient and sustainable agriculture sector”, says Defra.
Mr Dimbleby – co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain and the Sustainable Restaurant Association – will lead what is described as the first major review of the UK food system in 75 years.
A non-executive Defra executive, Mr Dimbleby has been asked to investigate the entire food system and consider what changes are needed to ensure it delivers safe, healthy, affordable food for everyone.
Defra said: “His recommendations will result in a trailblazing new national food strategy, set to be published in 2020.”
The review will seek to ensure England’s food system is robust in the face of future shocks; and restores and enhances the natural environment for the next generation.
It aims for food to be a thriving contributor to our urban and rural economies, delivering well-paid jobs and supporting innovative producers and manufacturers.
Mr Gove said: “Leaving the EU is a great opportunity for British farmers and food producers.
“But with an expanding population, the urgent threat of climate change and rising levels of diet-related disease, we face many challenges too.
“That is why the time is right for us to look afresh at our food system to ensure everyone has access to high-quality British food and our environment is protected for future generations.”
Farmers to have say
Mr Dimbleby said farmers would have a say in shaping the strategy.
“No part of our economy matters more than food. It is vital to life and shapes our sense of identity,” he said.“But there are urgent challenges with which we must grapple.
“Populations are growing, diet-related conditions are harming the lives of millions, and climate change is altering what our land will yield.
“From farmers in the field to chefs in the kitchen, over the next year I’ll be speaking with people from across the food chain to address these challenges and ensure everyone has a say in shaping the future.”
Taking food seriously
NFU president Minette Batters said she was pleased the government was taking food production seriously and putting plans in place for a national food strategy.
“It is crucial that this strategy delivers for everyone – from food producers to families across the country, regardless of their income.
“Safe, traceable, affordable food that is produced to high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection is a right for all and British farmers should be the number one supplier.”
Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of the Sustain food and farming alliance, said the strategy could support a transition to environmentally friendly farming.
Defra says the National Food Strategy will build on the government’s Agriculture Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament.