29 March 1999
Government retreats from £90 food levy
THE government is poised to withdraw the proposed £90 levy on food outlets in the UK. The money raised would have been used to pay for the new Food Standards Agency.
The size of the levy sparked opposition from small traders and cornershops amid claims that food prices would be driven up in shops serving some of the poorest families.
Ministers are preparing a new scheme which could almost halve the charge on small traders and leave supermarkets with the bulk of the £60m-a-year bill for setting up the agency and paying towards its running costs.
The government is facing further embarrassment this week over a report by the special select committee considering the legislation to establish the agency.
The Labour-led committee has proposed it should include a role for the agency over nutrition, which has proved controversial in Whitehall. The draft legislation does not provide the agency with statutory powers over nutrition, after fears were expressed that the government would be accused of running a nanny state.
The legislation will prevent manufacturers making misleading claims about food such as “virtually fat-free”.