HC Deb 06 March 1986 vol 93 c439
10. Mr. Jim Callaghan

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he intends consultation on his proposals following the COMA report to be concluded; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer

We have asked for comments on the labelling proposals announced on 13 February to be submitted by 1 May of this year.

Mr. Callaghan

I thank the Minister for his answer, but will he consider requesting, by law, manufacturers to label foods with polyunsaturated fats, as recommended in the COMA report?

Mr. Gummer

We have, of course, already accepted that it will be necessary by law to insist on fat content labelling, but one cannot restrict it to that. The intention is to provide the housewife or consumer with a range of information, much of which will be given voluntarily by food manufacturers. We hope to provide in this consultation a framework so that information given on different products will be readily understandable. The Ministry and the hon. Gentleman are very much on the same side.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Do we not spend billions of pounds on eating to make ourselves unhealthy, and then spend billions of more pounds, which we find increasingly hard to muster, on patching ourselves up after these excesses? Therefore, will my right hon. Friend undertake to have a word with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Social Services and the Chief Secretary about these "Ubuesque" arrangements, and put it to them that a rather more generous budget for research into how we can produce the elements for a healthy diet, vegetables for example, might rapidly be justified by significant, consequential savings on expenditure on the Health Service?

Mr. Gummer

I have not noticed any shortage of healthy food. Healthy food is available. However, the housewife and the consumer must be in a position to choose what he or she wants to buy. This Government are concerned about providing them with that information. The choice must be theirs. We do not want a nanny state which tells people what they ought to eat.

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