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New report reveals ‘shocking’ food problems that need to be fixed

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Anna Taylor, executive director of the UK Food Foundation, believes bold action is required by the Government and industry to fix our food problems and especially to safeguard the future of children.

She was speaking as the highly influential organisation launched its latest ‘Broken Plate’ report on the state of the nation’s diet and health.

“With the National Food Strategy just published and the task of rebuilding post pandemic now underway, there has never been a more opportune time for the Government and businesses to face the challenge of fixing our food environment head on,” she says.

“Bold action will be required if we are to safeguard the future health of our children – but it is by no means impossible.

“This year’s Broken Plate report highlights that our current food environment is failing to deliver diets that are just, healthy or sustainable with this having very real health implications for millions of citizens,” she adds.

The foundation’s Broken Plate report uses 10 metrics to provide a powerful picture of the current UK food system and the lack of progress made to improve food security, obesity levels and sustainability.

This year’s report is the third in the series, tracking UK progress in changing the food environment so that “diets can transition towards more healthy and sustainable outcomes”.

The Broken Plate report clearly demonstrates that Government and policy makers need to implement structural changes “if we are going to improve the UK’s food environment and ensure that every adult and child has access to a healthy and sustainable diet”.

The provocative report pinpoints critical levels of obesity, dietary inequality, and an increasingly obesogenic food environment as being amongst the many metrics highlighted in the report, which has been produced in collaboration with Eating Better, Action on Sugar, Neilsen, The Resolution Foundation, CEDAR and Feat at the University of Cambridge, Food DB at the University of Oxford, and University of Leeds, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Food NI here has also supported the pioneering work of the foundation.

Michele Shirlow, Food NI chief executive, adds: “These very worrying findings demonstrate the need for urgent and far reaching action from Government and the industry to address what is clearly now a crisis.”

The report continues by warning that “by the time they’re 65 years old, over half of the children born in 2021 will experience diet-related disease which may affect their quality of life”.

And “whether children are born into richer or poorer households will greatly impact their risk of obesity as well as limiting life expectancy. Those in the most deprived decile (the poorest 10 per cent) are 10 times more likely to be living with severe obesity at age 11 than those in the least deprived decile”.

The report’s findings led Laura Sandys, chair of Trustees at the Food Foundation, to describe them as “quite shocking”.

“They show the scale of the challenge, particularly those who work to change public policy and industry ambition for the benefit of consumers.”

She continues: “Coming out of the pandemic requires us all to double our efforts to halt and reverse these extremely concerning findings.”

And Professor Sir Michael Marmot adds: “Broken Plate fulfils an urgent national need. It charts not only national trends – shockingly, five-year old children in the UK are shorter than in all but one of the rich countries – but inequalities.”

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