Food System: Health and Sustainability

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at on 19 October 2023.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

What steps she is taking to support a healthy and sustainable food system.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government’s food strategy set out longer-term measures to support a resilient, healthier and more sustainable food and farming system. In May, the Prime Minister’s farm to fork summit built on that with a focus on how we can work together to support a thriving UK food and farming industry. The summit focused on innovation, skills and labour, and on rolling out the new farming schemes to ensure fairness across the supply chain to boost exports and support energy and water security, as well as to reduce red tape.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

Every year, post-farm gate, 9.5 million tonnes of food that could have provided more than 15 billion perfectly edible meals is wasted. That also has a massive carbon footprint. Given that DEFRA’s impact assessment concluded that mandatory food waste reporting would result in

“financial benefits to business and significant environmental benefits” and is backed by many retailers, including Tesco, why have the Government dropped their plans?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are working closely with retailers to try to reduce food waste and will continue to do that. The hon. Member will recognise that a vast amount of food waste occurs within the domestic home, and we can do more to help and support consumers to make the most of the food they purchase. We will continue to work with primary producers, retailers and consumers to reduce food waste wherever we can.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Sustainability is top of our agenda in the New Forest, and the national park authority is keen to discuss opportunities for it with the Minister. I have sent him an invitation—will he come?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am excited to have an opportunity to visit the New Forest. As soon as my diary allows, I will hot-foot it down there to meet my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To maintain that healthy, sustainable food system, farmers need a level playing field, so when Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg made his recent comments about the benefits of importing hormone-injected beef, it sent a shudder through the industry. This time last year, he was at the very top of Government, alongside the Secretary of State. Given the Minister’s long experience in Government, can he tell us how many others at the top of his Government privately harbour that view?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The gentleman at the top of Government —the Prime Minister—has been absolutely clear and explicit that we will not accept hormone-produced beef at any point in the future, nor will we accept chlorinated chicken. He has the backing and support of British farmers, and he will do everything he can to help and support them.