FOB Chief Executive’s Weekly News for w/c 19th July 2021

Dear All,

Detailed below is the Weekly News for 19th July.

Good luck in keeping cool.


Gordon Polson – Chief Executive

Federation of Bakers Ltd

Absence rates survey

Defra is inviting all food businesses to complete the Defra survey of absence and vacancies in the food chain by Thursday 22 July. Even if your business is not directly affected, your responses and information are essential for our understanding of the issues facing the industry.

The survey is completely anonymous, and the data collected will be securely stored and processed by Defra analysts. Only aggregated data will be used in reports produced from the survey.

Working Safely guidance for Step 4 published

Updated BEIS Working Safely guidance for Step 4 is now live here, including setting-specific advice on mitigating the risks of Covid-19 in the workplace. The core guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of Covid-19 from 19 July is here.

Folic acid flour fortification-British Government ‘Committed to the Measure’

Lord Rooker and other peers have once again pressed the government to respond to its own 2019 consultation on fortifying flour with folic acid in order to reduce the number of babies born in the uk with neural tube deficits, such as spina bifida.  the health minister, Lord Bethell, said that “substantial progress has been” since June, “including positive dialogue with all devolved administrations” and he expected to be able to provide an update after the summer recess. when pressed by Lord Rooker on the timescale involved, Lord Bethell said that this matter “is a priority for the government. we are taking it through the machinery of the British government to ensure that it is rolled out safely, extensively and on a nationwide basis.”  Lord Taylor and Baroness Jolly pressed the minister to implement the policy as soon as possible given that there is no disagreement in principle about its importance, as did Lord Moynihan, Lord Balfe and Baroness Finlay of Llandaff.  Baroness Finlay also pointed out that it is not just that 90% of women aged 16 to 49 currently have folate levels below that required to reduce the risk of neural tube defects; 70% of adults – including men – have folate levels so low that they are at risk of anaemia.  Lord Mccoll and Baroness Hayman reminded the house that America acted 23 years ago, on the basis of British science 40 years ago, to fortify flour with folic acid, thus preventing 1300 babies a year being born with neural tube deficits.  Lord Bethell acknowledged the palpable frustration expressed by peers and said he was “completely committed to the measure” as is the British government.

Health and Care Bill debated by MPs

MPs debated the principles underpinning the Health and Care Bill (Explanatory Notes) and its key measures on 14 July in a debate opened by the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid.  The Bill includes measures to restrict the advertising and promotion of foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) in order to tackle obesity and improve oral health, as well as measures to promote improved integration of health services, replace the current procurement regime and provide an updated legal framework for the social care sector. The Labour Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, moved an Opposition motion opposing the Bill, despite the welcome measures to restrict the promotion of “junk food” because “the Bill represents a top down reorganisation in a pandemic leading to a loss of local accountability”.  Among many other issues, the SNP Spokesperson, Dr Philippa Whitford, highlighted the role of food poverty in contributing to ill health. Steve Brine also noted the importance of focussing on prevention, not least to tackle obesity. John Stevenson questioned how effective the measures restricting the promotion and advertising of HFSS foods would be in promoting health, while noting their potentially adverse impact on our food and drink sector.  The Bill was passed and sent for detailed scrutiny at Committee stage. The Public Bill Committee, which is due to report by 2 November 2021 and is expected to begin scrutiny of the Bill on 7 September, has issued a call for evidence on the Bill.  The future progress of the Bill can be followed on its website.

Nutri-Score & Chilean warning food labelling schemes

Craig Whittaker and Daniel Zeichner have asked the Government what assessment it has made of nutritional and consumer response evidence on the viability of the Nutri-Score and Chilean warning food labelling schemes as the UK’s preferred front-of-pack nutrition labelling.  In response the Public Health Minister, Jo Churchill, said the Government is still considering responses to its consultation on our current front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme, including views and evidence on new international examples, such as the Nutri-score label and Chile’s warning label. She said the Government chose to consider the Nutri-Score and Chile’s warning label because they differ significantly from the UK’s multiple traffic light scheme and have evidence of the impact on public health in non-UK markets. The Government’s consultation paper included a technical annex which provides a provisional commentary on the costs and benefits on the suggestions included in the consultation. Research was commissioned alongside the consultation to test which front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme supports people in Great Britain to identify healthier choices. This research tested the Government-recommended multiple traffic light, Nutri-score, Chile’s warning and Positive Choice Tick labels with a British population. Ms Churchill confirmed that the Government will publish its response to the consultation as soon as possible and, if any changes to the UK scheme are required, it will consult again on proposed policy changes and publish a full impact assessment.

FSA resources to support allergen labelling requirements

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published new resources to help food businesses prepare for forthcoming changes to pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) allergen labelling.  With effect from 1 October 2021, the law on allergen labelling for PPDS) foods will change, so that any food business selling PPDS foods will have to include full ingredients on the product label with allergenic ingredients emphasised within that list.

YouGov polling on obesity policies shows mixed public opinion
This week, YouGov shared data summarising the opinions of the British public on some of the Government’s key obesity policies and whether they would be effective. Views seem to be split on whether restrictions on the advertising and promotion of products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) would work. However, there was greater confidence in some of the more positive commitments, such as providing incentives for eating better and better weight management services. In summary:

  • 9pm watershed of advertising of HFSS products on TV:  42% said this would be effective, 49% said ineffective.
  • Online ban of HFSS advertising:  47% said this would be effective, 45% said ineffective.
  • Banning HFSS multibuy promotions: 43% said this would be effective, 46% said ineffective.
  • Calorie information on menus out of home: 39% said this would be effective, 55% said ineffective.
  • Offering incentives for eating better and exercising: 60% said this would be effective, 29% said ineffective.
  • A marketing campaign to motivate people to make healthier choices: 49% said this would be effective, 42% said ineffective.
  • Better weight management services:  67% said this would be effective, 23% said ineffective.

Henry Dimbleby’s Independent Review for the National Food Strategy

On Thursday, Henry Dimbleby published his long awaited independent review on the National Food Strategy (NFS). As expected, the report has a core focus on diet and health and the environment. The recommendations are grouped under four objectives:

  1. Escape the Junk Food Cycle to Protect the NHS
  2. Reduce diet-related inequality
  3. Make the best use of our land
  4. Create a long-term shift in our food culture

A critical recommendation for food and drink manufacturers includes a call for a £3/kg tax on sugar and a £6/kg tax on salt sold for use in processed foods or in restaurants and catering businesses. Imports of processed foods would also be taxed under the proposals, according to the sugar and salt content when they enter the UK. The report suggests this would create an incentive for manufacturers to reduce the levels of sugar and salt in their products, by reformulating recipes or reducing their portion sizes. It proposes that revenue from this should be ringfenced to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to low income families. The FDF has firmly opposed this proposal in our media statement. The report also calls for mandatory reporting for large food companies on sales of food and drink high in fat, sugars, or salt, types of protein, fruit and vegetables, and major nutrients, as well as reporting on food waste and total food and drink sales. We will be raising our concerns regarding the commercial sensitivities of this proposal. A summary of our reflections and the full list of recommendations is available here. Henry Dimbleby will be holding a launch event for the report on Wednesday 21 July at 3pm, where he will be discussing the report and the recommendations with Sarah Makherjee. If you’d like to attend, you can register through the link here.

Food and Drink Federation: Cost of Government regulation will mean higher food prices for consumers
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has today warned that consumers will inevitably face higher food and drink prices if manufacturers are forced to absorb the cost of proposed Government policies during the next few years.
In the report, entitled ‘Eating into household budgets: the Government’s recipe for food price inflation’, the FDF has estimated that if the cost of forthcoming Government policies were passed on directly to consumers, it would increase the price of food and drink shopping per household by more than £160 per year.
What’s more, it suggests poorer socio-economic households would see their shopping bills increase by 11%, the same proportion of their entire food shop which is currently spent on fresh vegetables.
According to ONS estimates, a household of one adult and one child in the poorest 10% by income spends £45 per week on food and drink, meaning the Government’s proposals could lead to an increase in food and drink spending of nearly 7%.
Over the last twenty years, food and drink manufacturers have worked tirelessly to absorb increases in the cost of raw materials, while ensuring the impact of these price pressures are not passed directly onto consumers. Now, with no margin left to offset the raft of costly Government policies coming down the line, manufacturers will have to pass that cost directly on to consumers.
The FDF calculates that the cost to the food and drink industry of proposed UK Government policies around public health and sustainability is at least £8 billion. This is before factoring in the suggested taxes on salt and sugar as outlined in Henry Dimbleby’s recent National Food Strategy report. These additional costs from Government policies also come at a time of rising global inflationary pressures.
The policies include the reforming of Extended Producer responsibility for the disposal of post-consumer goods (£1.7bn), a Deposit Return Scheme on food and drink packaging (£850m), and the introduction of promotional restrictions on HFSS foods (£833m).
The FDF is calling on the Government to reconsider these policies and their unintended consequences, as well as fundamental reforms to the UK’s regulatory architecture, in order to ensure future policy is effective and well-targeted.
It also argues that in the long-term any additional costs will likely increase indebtedness, reduce competitiveness and see investment decline, particularly at a time when businesses are seeking to recover from a difficult period of economic uncertainty. Food and drink is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, and if the Government is serious about levelling up it needs to incentivise the sector and not pile on extra costs. 97% of all food and drink businesses are SMEs, and it is they who are more greatly exposed to these risks.

FSA webinar explaining PPDS changes for businesses – 4 AugustThere are now under 3 months to go until new food labelling laws for prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) food come into effect on 1 October 2021. Find out what your food business needs to do to get ready for these changes by registering for the Food Standards Agency’s free webinar on 4 August here.

Government to boost support for Northern Ireland agri-food traders

The Movement Assistance Scheme has been extended and expanded to offer greater support for traders moving agri-food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, who will benefit from increased Government support until the end of 2023. View the guidance here. Please see our accompanying social media post here.

Extension of delivery curfew 

The delivery curfew on food, sanitary and other essential goods has been extended. This will allow for logistical flexibility and ensure the availability of these products. Read the Written Ministerial Statement here.