The rising demand for food globally and changes to the environment mean we will have to ‘radically rethink’ the way we produce and source our food in the UK, environment secretary Hilary Benn said today.
Announcing the first food security assessment Benn said the challenges of global warming, an increasing world population and the depletion of fish stocks meant that the UK would need to make changes for the future and be less reliant on importing food from abroad if we are to continue to have ‘healthy affordable food in the decades ahead’.
Although many chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers are sourcing food locally now, the strategy's focus means that more businesses could be forced to use home-grown food in the future and will be less able to import ingredients from abroad.
Benn said: “Globally we need to cut emissions and adapt to the changing climate that will alter what we can grow and where we can grow it. We must maintain the natural resources – soils, water, and biodiversity – on which food production depends. And we need to tackle diet-related ill health that already costs the NHS and the wider economy billions of pounds each year.
“And because we live in an interconnected world – where the price of soya in Brazil affects the price of steak at the local supermarket – we need to look at global issues that affect food security here.
“That’s why we need to consider what food system should look like in 20 years, and what must happen to get there. We need everyone in the food system to get involved – from farmers and retailers to the health service, schools and consumers.”
Responding to news of the strategy, a spokesman for the British Hospitality Association said there was a need for balance and said although many hospitality businesses were already trying to source food locally some food will always have to be imported.
A consultation has been launched online with responses to form a food strategy for the future that will be published later this year.