Diet and Nutrition

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th November 1997.

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Photo of Jim Cousins Jim Cousins Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne Central 12:00 am, 6th November 1997

What assessment he has made of variations in diet and nutrition between the regions of England; and what role the Food Standards Agency will have to investigate them. [12616]

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Department assesses regional variations in the diet of the British population using the continuous national food survey and, with the Department of Health, the national diet and nutrition survey programme.

Photo of Jim Cousins Jim Cousins Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne Central

Does the Minister agree that the consumption of fruit, vegetables and salad is lower in the northern region of England than in other parts of England? Does he agree that that is a matter not just of individual choice but of social exclusion from good diet because people find themselves on low incomes, with no cars and facing high-cost food? Will he assure the House that the Food Standards Agency will do some proactive work and contribute to the Government's policy on social exclusion so that diet is also considered when we talk about social exclusion?

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My hon. Friend is right to say that the consumption of certain foods varies on a regional basis. More up-to-date figures will be published on 10 November in the next national food survey. A special analysis of regional data is contained in that report.

On my hon. Friend's second point, the Food Standards Agency will play a key role in advising on nutrition and diet issues, working with the Department of Health. That will be made abundantly clear in the White Paper later this month.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

As there is a variation in the incidence of tuberculosis in badgers in the different regions of Britain, can the Minister say whether the Government have any policy on that matter? Farms have been closed—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. This question does not relate to badgers; it is about nutrition in the regions.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee)

Does the Minister accept that an important element in nutrition can be vitamin supplements? Is he aware of the dismay among many alternative and complementary medical practitioners and nutritionists about the ban on over-10 mg vitamin B6? Does he accept that, across the industry, most people believe that 100 mg is perfectly safe? Is not the advice that the hon. Gentleman has accepted fundamentally flawed, having been based on a 10-year-old survey largely dealing with animals? Much more recent information is now available. Will he reconsider the matter, which is causing much concern among those who are trying to improve the health of the nation?

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The hon. Gentleman raises a legitimate point, but I invite him to re-read the further information that he has received—as, indeed, has every hon. Member. The advice was not taken on the basis of one scientific paper—more than 100 have been assessed.

The point that needs to be made abundantly clear to everyone, especially those outside the House, is that in respect of dietary supplements we are acting on the basis of food law. If people want to take them on health grounds, there is health law covering that, but I am not dealing with that.