MP Andrew Lansley, UK Secretary of State for Health, praised the industry for its participation in the Public Health Responsibility Deal when he spoke at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) president's dinner last week.
The FDF said that he paid tribute to its involvement in creating trans fats, salt and calorie pledges, “clearly setting out that the approach is achieving more and more quickly by voluntary action than would be achieved by costly intrusive regulation”.
Partners signed up to the Responsibility Deal have committed to take action through pledges covering food, physical activity, health at work and alcohol.
One of the most recent pledges was last month when 17 companies signed up to help the government achieve its aim of reducing the population’s calorie intake by five billion calories with, for example, reformulation.
However, one year on, Sue Davies, chief policy officer for the campaign group Which?, argued that while food companies were encouraged to sign up to the Responsibility Deal, there were no in-built penalties if they did not.
Davies also said in March that responsibility for UK nutrition and food labelling should be given back to the Food Standards Agency, claiming not enough was being done under the Department of Health to tackle the obesity epidemic.
The FDF has spoken out against the idea of regulations such as mandatory labelling for trans fatty acids in products.
It also states in its vision of 20 per cent growth by 2020 that the UK's regulatory and tax systems are already “acting as brakes on inward investment”.
FDF President Jim Moseley said of last week’s event that he was delighted to hear from both the trade and the health minister. This is because, he explained: “When I launched the 2020 vision, I was also clear that this was not growth at any cost, with FDF's work to improve public health forming an integral part.”
Meanwhile Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, Minister of State for Trade and Investment told guests at last week’s FDF event that if the rest of UK manufacturing were as vibrant and innovative, with such strong growth in exports as the food and drink industry, the economy would be in far better shape.
He highlighted that big brands, as well as small and medium-sized firms are finding growth through export.
The latest figures show that UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports increased by 11.4 per cent in 2011 to £12.15bn. The best performing sector last year was fruit and vegetables with growth of 30.8 per cent to £1,080.8m.
The five biggest export countries are Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. But the top five export markets in terms of growth were China, Poland, Hong Kong, The Netherlands and Belgium.