Intended for healthcare professionals


National food strategy: what’s in it for population health?

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 27 July 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n1865
  1. Jean Adams, programme leader
  1. MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. jma79{at}

Healthier food environments, but a missed opportunity to tackle poverty

It is not easy to eat well in the UK. Less healthy food is cheap,12 heavily promoted,13 and available everywhere.4 Our food problem is huge: around 15% of all years of life lost are due to poor diet,5 one quarter of adults experience food poverty each year,6 and agriculture accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Against this backdrop, the second part of the government commissioned National Food Strategy was published on 15 July. Together with part 1, published in 2020,7 the population health aspects of the strategy focus firmly on changing the environments in which we make food decisions.

This is a welcome contrast to previous admonishments to individuals to make better food choices despite increasingly unsupportive environments.8 Structural, alongside individual, approaches are likely to be more effective and equitable.9 They also help avoid stigmatising the people most affected by unhealthy environments.

The food strategy’s population health proposals are ambitious and wide ranging. But there are missed opportunities that perhaps reflect the stated desire for political expediency.

The media’s initial response to the strategy …

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