Boris Johnson’s new food strategy has been denounced as “bordering on the preposterous” after a leaked draft suggested it will reject key recommendations from an independent review but will urge people to eat more venison.
Calls to expand the provision of free school meals and for a sugar and salt tax appear to have been ignored, the draft paper suggests.
Instead there will be a consultation on how to help cows produce less methane and a suggested rise in the use of “responsibly sourced wild venison”.
Leon restaurant co-founder Henry Dimbleby was asked by the government in 2019 to lead a review into England’s food system to ensure it was “safe, healthy and affordable” for all.
His final report, published in 2021, called for a sugar and salt reformulation levy as a key way to transform the diets of millions and help protect the environment.
But this appears to have been rejected by ministers, according to a leaked draft of the government’s new food strategy white paper, expected to be published on Monday.
In his report Mr Dimbleby also called for some of the money raised by the levy to be used to expand free school meals, as well as funding holiday food clubs and giving food to families in poverty.
But despite a call from teachers and unions to extend free school meals to an extra one million children in poverty, it says the idea will be “kept under review”.
Ministers do appear to be moving on some of Mr Dimbleby’s proposals, including a consultation on the possibility of mandatory food waste reporting for businesses over a certain size.
After the review urged the government to “nudge” consumers into changing their habits on meat, the paper also said ministers would “support progress on a wide range of issues, including alternative proteins”.
Controversially, because of their environmental impact, it also suggests a potential increase in fish farming.
Mr Johnson has recently come under fire, including from former Tory ministers, for a decision to delay measures to tackle obesity, amove that was blamed on the cost of living crisis.
At the same time critics argue he has done little to help families facing what even the Bank of England governor has suggested could become ‘apocalyptic’ food price rises.
The paper warns that is looks at “longer term measures” rather than “duplicating work on the cost of living”.
Instead of accepting Dimbleby’s warning that “our current appetite for meat is unsustainable” the government will open a consultation into new technologies to help cattle produce less methane.
However, ministers will make it easier for countries to trade with the UK if they have strong animal welfare legislation.
Labour said the document was “nothing more than a statement of vague intentions”.
Shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon said: “A food strategy is of vital importance, but the government has dithered, delayed and now failed to deliver.
“This is nothing more than a statement of vague intentions, not the concrete proposals to tackle the major issues facing our country. To call it a ‘food strategy’ is bordering on the preposterous.”
Greenpeace described the plan as “worse than half-baked”.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it did not comment on leaked documents.
A spokesperson added: “We will be setting out the contents of our ambitious new food strategy in due course.”