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Concerns over UK supply of fresh fruit and vegetables

Academics have expressed concern that supplies of fresh fruits, vegetables and salads could “shrink rapidly” as most come from Spain and Italy – the two European countries with most cases of Covid-19.

It comes as the government is asked to launch a campaign to promote how healthy eating can strengthen the body’s immune system against the threat of coronavirus.

There is ample evidence that nutritional status crucially affects our immune responses, said food policy experts in a letter to Secretary of the Environment George Eustice and Director General of Public Health in England Duncan Selbie.

Experts believe that this “vital” consideration has not yet been reflected in the government’s political responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City, University of London, along with two other academics, wrote: “In addition to current government measures, the government must provide the government with clear and knowledgeable guidance on what is nutritionally necessary and sufficient. to maintain food security and nutritional relevance in the UK.

“We therefore urge you to establish and operate new work structures, based on clear principles of equity and health, and with coordinated delivery methods.

“These are necessary if the country is to solve the numerous and complex quantitative and qualitative difficulties which arise in many parts of the British food system.

“They are also necessary to prepare for further disruptions and potential shortages, if the international and national situation remains critical in the medium term. “

Professor Lang, Professor Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex Business School and Professor Terry Marsden of the University of Cardiff also point out that most fruits, vegetables and salads in the UK come from Spain and Italy – the two European countries with most cases of Covid-19.

They warn that these supplies could decline rapidly if there were too few people to pick them up, package and transport them, and suggest that a “volunteer system” could be put in place to secure the supplies.

“National supplies of fruit and vegetables in the UK depend on a sufficient supply of workers and, under conditions of foreclosure and cessation of cross-border travel, there will most likely be a shortage of workers available, willing and able to produce , collect, package, process and transport nutritionally essential foods.

“A volunteer system, similar but improved to what happened during the Second World War, might be desirable to support the food supply, but it needs careful planning to ensure that it does not spread not Covid-19 infection, ”they wrote.

Academics warn that the government has ceded too much decision-making power to food retailers, writing: “Some retailers have set limits on certain aspects of purchasing, but these restrictions are not uniform or consistent; they also do not reflect nutritional or immunological considerations. ”

They conclude the letter by writing: “As in 1936-40 and in the perspective of a Brexit without agreement, the food strains were very likely to appear.

“Now is the time to tackle and resolve these strains, not to exacerbate them by unduly relying on a handful of retailers, no matter how important, and to ensure that nutritional advice is given. clear, open and perceived to be shaped by the public interest. “

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