Publican and professors to advise government on food policy

A high-level group set up to advise government ministers on all aspects of food policy includes three professors, a former supermarket chief executive, a publican – and one farmer.

The group will advise on issues ranging from production to retail, and from regulation and distribution to consumption, as well as on securing the UK’s food supply, the affordability of food and the industry’s environmental impact.

DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn said: “We need to ensure that our food supply in future continues to be secure and sustainable. That’s why I’ve set up this new team of advisers who will look at food from farm to fork.”

Academic members include Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University Elizabeth Dowler, professor of food and social policy at Warwick University and Gareth Edwards-Jones, professor of agriculture and land use at Bangor University.

The council also includes Guy McCracken, former chief executive of food retail for the Co-operative Group Sue Davies, chief policy adviser for Which? and Fiona Reynolds, director of the National Trust.

Northumberland farmer Sir Don Curry, who is due to step down next year as chairman of the government’s sustainable farming and food strategy group, has also been given a place on the council.

But perhaps the most surprising member is Geetie Singh, who set up the Duke of Cambridge in Islington as the UK’s first organic gastropub in 1998. She now holds a number of positions, and is chair of catering certification for the Soil Association.

Mr Benn said: “The council will look at food prices, obesity and health, the environmental impact of food, and links to the wider economy, as well as providing a forum in which all food issues can be looked at together.

The council is expected to work closely with the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It will be chaired by former FSA deputy chairman Suzi Leather (pictured above) and includes current FSA chief executive Tim Smith.

Dame Suzi said the group’s role was to provide rapid advice and recommendations on key policy issues. “I do not anticipate producing weighty reports that sit unread on shelves but rather practical solutions and ongoing counsel for government.”