UK Households Struggling with Food Insecurity and Obesity, MPs Warn
A report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has highlighted that a fifth of UK households are facing difficulties in accessing good quality food at reasonable prices. This has led many households to turn to high-calorie alternatives, contributing to the growing obesity problem in the country.
The report calls on the government to explore options such as extending the provision of free school meals and breaking the “junk food cycle”. It also raises concerns about the high and sustained rate of food inflation, which has forced many households to take measures like skipping meals to save money.
In January, nearly 18% of households experienced moderate or severe food insecurity as prices reached 40-year highs. The report emphasizes that the promotion of relatively low-cost, calorie-dense but nutrient-poor food by retailers, such as biscuits, burgers, and highly processed items, has contributed to the obesity crisis among poorer communities in the UK.
The struggle to access affordable, nutritious food and the reliance on unhealthy alternatives are projected to result in 40% of the population being obese by 2025. The report highlights that high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt foods are often cheaper per calorie than healthier options, exacerbating obesity levels in low-income households.
Government Urged to Address Food Insecurity
The EFRA Committee has called on the government to review the adequacy of income support packages for poorer individuals to prevent them from relying on food banks. Sir Robert Goodwill, the chair of the committee, emphasizes that food security is a concern for everyone and calls for greater attention to be given to ensuring a guaranteed supply of good quality food at affordable prices for both producers and consumers.
The report also recommends a full impact assessment of the introduction of a sugar and salt tax to encourage healthier food choices. The government has been urged to work closely with the industry to address the rising cost of food and implement measures to tackle obesity.
A government spokesperson responded by acknowledging the concerns about food prices and reaffirming their commitment to halving inflation this year. They also highlighted recent initiatives, such as clear food labeling guidelines, aimed at helping people make healthier choices when eating out or ordering takeaways. The government estimates that these policies will result in a reduction of 70,000 children and 300,000 adults living with obesity.
Overall, the report emphasizes the urgent need for action to address food insecurity and obesity in the UK. It calls for a comprehensive approach that includes measures to improve access to affordable, nutritious food, break the cycle of junk food consumption, and support individuals and families in making healthier choices.