Lab grown meat should be funded by the Government to help beat obesity, think tank says

A vegan burger made by Beyond Meat - Richard Drew/AP
A vegan burger made by Beyond Meat – Richard Drew/AP

Lab grown meat should be funded by the Government to help beat obesity, a think tank said.

A report published on Monday by Demos said the food market is not working for consumers who face too many barriers to eating healthy diets.

It estimated that 20 million adults in the UK cannot afford healthy foods and 19 million have difficulty finding the healthiest produce in shops close to their homes.

It called on the Government to put money towards a “new sector deal” to accelerate the research and development of food to make it healthier and more cost effective.

This would include a pot to fund the development of lab-based meat alternatives. Demos said there is evidence that processed, red meat eaten in excess is bad for people and the fund would help to find alternatives.

The report also recommended that healthy food like tinned tomatoes and frozen vegetables should be subsidised to help make it more accessible and that packaging on food that is high in salt, sugar or fat should be made less appealing.

The Government recently announced it hopes to ban the advertising of junk food before 9pm and introduce calorie labelling on restaurant menus.

Rose Lasko-Skinner, the author of the report, called Food Repackaged, said the obesity strategy is welcome but “does not go far enough” in tackling the causes of obesity.

She added: “By stimulating groundbreaking innovation in the food sector, the Government could make food healthier, more affordable and provide better choices for consumers, whilst supporting the workforce in the recovery from Covid-19.”

Former Conservative health secretary Lord Lansley, who wrote the foreword for the report, said there has been progress on “reformulating” food and promoting healthy options.

But he added: “The overall impact has been insufficient and the polarisation of debate between those who see this as an issue of liberty and those who want to bring in the ‘Ban on Unhealthy Foods Act’ has too often hindered worthwhile progress.”

He said the report lays the emphasis on understanding consumer preferences to find solutions which would have the support of the public.

Demos said that almost three-quarters of people it surveyed would support subsidies for healthy food and more than half supported additional taxes on unhealthy products.

The Government said that some adults are consuming 200 to 300 extra calories a day above recommended guidelines but that some children who are already overweight eat as many as 500 more than they need.

A Government spokesman said the new obesity strategy is “world-leading” and builds on existing progress on sugar reduction and food reformulation which resulted in a 2.9 per cent average reduction in the sugar in retail products in its first two years.