The Farmers’ Union of Wales has responded to a recent Welsh Government’s consultation, stressing that farmers are proud of the high quality food they produce.

Responding to the consultation ‘Healthy Food Environment - Exploring proposals to make the food environment in Wales healthier’, the Union stressed that it is broadly supportive of the themes identified in the consultation to encourage healthier shopping baskets, healthier eating out of homes and healthier local food environments, therefore making ‘the healthy choice the easy choice’.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “FUW members are proud of the high quality Welsh farm products they produce for Wales’ local population and further afield.

“We want to see continued promotion of the high environmental and animal welfare standards we all have to and want to adhere to alongside the high nutritional value of our produce within a healthy, balanced and sustainably produced food environment.”

The FUW was also broadly supportive of focusing efforts on high sugar products to tackle obesity.

“There are a number of concerns for FUW members within the proposals, particularly in regards to how high in fat, sugar or salt (‘HFSS’) products are determined and categorised, and their subsequent price promotion limitations.

“For example, yoghurts are listed in the ‘Categories that are of most concern for childhood obesity’ and Dairy Desserts are also a focus of the calorie and sugar reduction programme. However, calcium is vital for growing children, therefore categorising yoghurts as proposed could lead to unintended consequences.

“Dairy provides a wide range of nutrients including potassium and phosphates. Regarding heart and circulatory health, despite their saturated fat content, dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt have a neutral or even positive effect.

“They could also help reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and blood pressure according to the British Heart Foundation. Therefore care should be taken in categorising dairy products within the HFSS category,” added the Union President.

In its response the Union also addressed the fact that meat pastries and meat ready meals are also listed under the calorie reduction programme.

“Whilst the Eatwell Guide recommendations, which have been used as evidence for the proposals, recognises the role lean red meat plays in a balanced diet, it also recommends eating less red meat. We would argue that the suggested health benefits would surely depend on what red meat is replaced with. Let’s not forget that red meat is packed with protein, essential vitamins and minerals,” said Glyn Roberts.

Mr Roberts added that caution is needed as calories are not created equally, therefore the FUW does not believe that restrictions should apply to lean red meat or dairy products.

“Simplifying these foods down to simple calorie counts does not take into account their high nutritional value, long lasting energy provision and proteins which make people feel ‘full’ for longer, in comparison to the high sugar products they are classified with,” he said.