The Institute of Public Health responded to a consultation on the Northern Ireland Food Strategy Framework launched by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in September 2021. The Framework sets out a long-term vision to develop a food system that protects natural resources for future generations, is economically and environmentally sustainable and provides safe, nourishing, accessible food enabling people to make informed healthy choices.
The Institute made a series of recommendations on the Food Strategy Framework for Northern Ireland.
IPH would welcome a public health approach to food policy reflecting the principle of proportionate universalism, as well as the development of a regulatory framework for food products with an explicit policy goal of creating a healthier, more sustainable food environment that is accessible across the social gradient.
A rights-based approach is needed to address food poverty and insecurity in Northern Ireland, as well as to mitigate the global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition and climate change. The Institute would welcome the development of a cross-departmental taskforce to address food insecurity and health inequalities in Northern Ireland, and a commitment to carry out a Health Impact Assessment prior to implementation of the Framework.
The Institute recommends that ownership of this strategy is cross-departmental, includes public health at a strategic level and is given independent oversight to tackle public health harms arising from the food system. We would caution against narrowing the scope of the strategy to focus on the agriculture policy agenda, as this could lead to a disproportionate focus on food supply, manufacturing and industry rather than considering food through a public health lens.