Food and Drink

More than 330,000 foodservice operators and 73,000 retailers rely on FWD members for the supply of fresh, chilled and frozen food – often delivered daily, and ready to go straight on the menu or the counter.

FWD represents wholesalers in reactive action by government, for example taking the lead in representing the industry on issues such as Free School Meals, Holiday Hunger and wider health and obesity issues. FWD is on the board of the School Food Plan Alliance, which brings together organisations with an interest in school food and attend the regular meetings of the School Food All Party Parliamentary Group.

We are also actively involved in the formulation of food regulation. We work with the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs to produce guidance on the new Food Information to Consumers regulations, and bring members together to discuss how best to implement the requirements.

In addition, FWD represents members’ views on economic controls on food supply, such as the Soft Drinks Levy, to ensure that unintended consequences of intervention are taken into account, such as the growth of a grey market.

FWD recognises the role that alcohol plays in contributing to anti-social behaviour and health harms, and supports across-the-board measures that consider the supply of alcohol equally, such as minimum unit pricing. The Scottish Government will be introducing minimum unit pricing on 1st May 2018 and FWD have been working closely with officials to ensure there is the appropriate guidance for wholesalers.

On the radar this month:

Soft drinks levy

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy which require manufacturers and importers of soft drinks to pay a levy on high sugar products went live on April 6. The levy is made up of two rates: 18p per litre if the drink has 5g of sugar or more per 100ml and 24p per litre if the drink has 8g of sugar or more per 100ml.

Ahead of its introduction FWD has been working with Coca-Cola European Partners and the British Soft Drinks Association to highlight the potential fraud risks of the sugar tax, which includes a trade press campaign to highlight the issue to retailers and encouraging them to report any suspicious activity to HMRC.

What you can do: If you notice any drop off in sales of high sugar soft drink skus, or retailers say they’ve been offered these lines at very low prices, please let us know, or report it to the Customs Hotline

Energy Drinks

The House of Commons Science and Technology committee has launched an inquiry into energy drinks to which FWD has responded. The consultation looks at their popularity with young people, amid concerns about negative health outcomes due to their high caffeine and sugar content. The inquiry  looks at what controls, regulation or awareness-raising are in place and explores potential further measures.

In our response we highlighted that wholesalers of energy drinks are clear to their customers about the suitability of energy drinks and clearly label high caffeine soft drinks as not recommended for children. Any coordinated voluntary action by the convenience retailers served by FWD members is extremely challenging as the majority are independent retailers and it is up to each individual retailer to decide their store’s procedures.

In a Westminster Hall debate on energy drinks Health Minister Steve Brine MP said regular consumption of energy drinks by children is not appropriate, especially those under 16 and that the Government remains open minded and is looking at any new evidence. The UK’s Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment is now considering whether a review of caffeine consumption in children and adolescents is required. The minister said that if the Government conclude further action is required, they will not hesitate to act.

Calorie reduction

Public Health England have announced a new calorie reduction programme which introduces new voluntary targets for industry to cut calories by 20% by 2024. PHE are encouraging industry to consider reformulating products, reducing portion sizes and encouraging consumers to purchase lower calorie products as a way to achieve the voluntary targets.

Meanwhile, celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gave evidence to the House of Commons Health Select Committee as part of its inquiry ahead of the publication of a new Government Childhood Obesity Strategy in the coming months.. Oliver is calling for new measures to tackle childhood obesity including an end to ‘buy one get one free’ and other multi-buy promotions on high fat, salt and sugar products, an extension of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to other products, the introduction of a legal age restriction for energy drinks for under 16s and creating new powers for local authorities to limit hot food takeaways near schools. During the session Oliver called for greater advertising restrictions.