Intended for healthcare professionals


Half hearted and half baked: the government’s new food strategy

BMJ 2022; 377 doi: (Published 22 June 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;377:o1520
  1. Martin White, professor of population health research
  1. MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, UK
  1. martin.white{at}

Human and planetary health will pay the price for this huge missed opportunity

The government’s new food strategy for England1 is its response to an independent review led by Henry Dimbleby, non-executive director of the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs.2 Dimbleby’s review provided a penetrating analysis of the seemingly intractable problems of the food system, showing that it is possible to envision transformation in the interests of both human and planetary health. The review framed the challenges as arising from system failures and explored multiple domains including health, local and global environments, employment, education, and the economy. It showed the wide ranging external costs of the food system—including health effects mediated by unhealthy diets as well as pollution, climate change, low wages, inequalities, and food insecurity. Dimbleby concluded with 14 policy recommendations grounded in pragmatic and economic realities, encompassing fiscal and regulatory levers, subsidies, and incentives for industry.

The resulting government food strategy, published on 13 June 2022, is a disappointing response, particularly from a public health perspective. While acknowledging the work of Dimbleby and his team, the food strategy offers several alternative framings, positioning the …

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