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Food policy experts contribute to Parliament report

Professors Corinna Hawkes and Martin Caraher were interviewed about healthy diets in the UK

by City Press Office (General enquiries)

Professor Corinna HawkesTwo experts from the Centre for Food Policy at City University London have provided their expertise to a new UK Parliament report.

Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre, and Professor Martin Caraher were both interviewed and provided evidence for the briefing document Barriers to Healthy Food.

Published by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), the report reviews current diets and barriers to healthier food, including price, marketing, skills and location.

The City experts were among a list of distinguished figures from universities, charities and public organisations who were spoken to during the preparation of the briefing.

Key points from the report include:

  • British diets include insufficient fruit and vegetables, fibre and oily fish, and too much added sugar, salt and saturated fat.
  • Lower levels of income and education are associated with less healthy diets. While diet is a problem for the population as a whole, there are also several potential barriers to healthy food that are more pronounced for these groups.
  • There are numerous opportunities to improve diets, including educating and informing, improving school meals, food reformulation, restricting portion size, and regulating advertising and the availability of fast food.
  • Evidence suggests that there is no single best approach, but a range of potential strategies that may improve diet.

Professor Martin CaraherIn his contribution to the report, Professor Caraher discussed and submitted evidence on the influence of structural factors, such as income and social standing.

He said: “These have as much influence on food behaviours as knowledge about healthy eating or the possession of skills such as cooking.”

Drawing on his work on the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, the academic made the point that a public health approach needs regulation and that it cannot be left to the industry to regulate itself.

“Opportunities to influence diet exist must be backed up by approaches that address the issues at both the individual and societal levels,” he said. “This latter point includes a case for regulation.

Professor Hawkes stressed to POST that there was evidence available to support decision making on the issue.

She said: “I gave evidence about the need to design policies so that they meet the reality of life of people on low incomes, emphasised the evidence that shows we need a range of complementary strategies, and that there is evidence out there that can help policy makers design effective policies."

Read the full report

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