Thursday briefing: ‘Fix UK diet for health and climate’

Top story: ‘Our eating habits are destroying the environment’

Hello, Thursday is upon us and there are developments of which to become apprised. Warren Murray here to facilitate that.

Ministers are being urged to levy a £3bn sugar and salt tax as part of a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to break Britain’s addiction to junk food, cut meat consumption by nearly a third and help tackle climate change. The National Food Strategy, drawn up by restaurateur Henry Dimbleby, says the UK population’s “malfunctioning” appetites and poor diets – fuelled by consumer and manufacturer reliance on processed food – place an unsustainable burden on the NHS and contribute to 64,000 deaths each year.

Its most eye-catching recommendation is a levy of £3 a kilo on sugar and £6 a kilo on salt sold wholesale for use in processed food, restaurants and catering, which it says would be a world first. This would raise up to £3.4bn a year, some of which should fund an expansion of free school meals to an extra 1.1 million children and an overhaul of Britain’s food and cooking culture. The proposal could put 1p on a bag of crisps and 7p on a Mars bar.

Ministers must accelerate changes in people’s eating habits and food culture if the UK is to meet its targets on health, climate and nature, it says. The UK’s consumption of meat and ultra-processed food would have to drop by nearly a third and its fruit and vegetable intake rise by 30% by 2032. The strategy says: “Our eating habits are destroying the environment, and this in turn threatens our food security. The next big shock to our food supply will almost certainly be caused by climate change, in the form of extreme weather events and catastrophic harvest failures.”


Speech sop for south-east – Boris Johnson will attempt to reassure Tory MPs in south-east England that “levelling up” does not involve favouring the north and Midlands at their expense. In a speech in the West Midlands today, Johnson is to argue that people in commuter belt areas can benefit from the focus on the “red wall”. It comes after the Conservatives spectacularly lost the Buckinghamshire constituency of Chesham and Amersham to the Lib Dems. Johnson is to say that too much previous government investment was focused, with detrimental effects, on “areas where house prices are already sky high and where transport is already congested”. The speech is expected to carry few policy details, which could be in a levelling-up white paper not due before the autumn.


‘VIP treatment’ – The government gave “VIP treatment” to a firm offering Covid testing facilities which had entered the system “informally” because Matt Hancock was “a good friend” of somebody working with the company, according to internal health department emails seen by the Guardian. The Animal Health Trust (AHT) had a laboratory based in Newmarket, in the then health secretary’s West Suffolk constituency, and much of its work focused on medical care for horses, including for the horse racing industry with which Hancock has close ties. The emails between officials within the Department of Health and Social Care appear to contradict denials from that department and the Cabinet Office of the existence of a VIP or “fast track” process for firms with political connections seeking government contracts for Covid testing. Despite the VIP treatment, AHT does not appear to have been given a government testing contract.


‘Green recovery’ a non-starter – Trillions poured into rescuing economies from the Covid-19 crisis have been spent in ways that worsen the climate crisis and harm nature, such as road construction and bailouts for airlines, as governments fail to guide a promised “green recovery”. Only about a tenth of $17tn in bailouts was spent on activities that reduced greenhouse gas emissions or restored the natural world, according to analysis from Vivid Economics. Today, more than 100 developing nations’ governments have joined to demand rich countries move faster to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions and provide financial assistance to their less wealthy counterparts. It comes as scientists confirm the Amazon rainforest is now emitting more carbon dioxide – a billion tonnes a year – than it is able to absorb. Most of the emissions are caused by land-clearing fires. But even without fires, hotter temperatures and droughts mean CO2 is being released as the forest dries out.


‘Scared of my dad’ – Britney Spears can select her own attorney for her conservatorship case, a judge ruled on Wednesday, during a hearing in which the singer said: “I’m here to get rid of my dad and charge him with conservatorship abuse.” The singer said she wanted an investigation into Jamie Spears and a restraining order issued against him: “I was always extremely scared of my dad.” Mathew S Rosengart, a Hollywood attorney who attended the hearing, will now be representing Spears. It marked the first time she has been able to select her own lawyer in the case, a move that could accelerate her push to get out of the conservatorship.


Lair of the hermit king – A cave house thought to have been an 18th-century folly for parties held by local gentry has now been identified as one of the oldest intact domestic interiors ever found in the UK – and, archaeologists believe, was once the home of an exiled Anglo-Saxon king. They say Anchor Church cave in south Derbyshire can be dated to 1,200 years ago and was probably lived in by Eardwulf, who was deposed as king of Northumbria in AD806 and died in AD830.

, Thursday briefing: ‘Fix UK diet for health and climate’, The Nzuchi Times Guardian
Anchor Church cave is currently Grade II listed as a natural cave enlarged in the 18th century. Photograph: Edmund Simons/Royal Agriculatural University

The cave house is Grade II, listed as a natural cave enlarged in the 1700s. But Edmund Simons, the principal investigator on the project, said everything about the cave – the narrowness of the windows, for example – pointed to Saxon architectural origins. One local legend links the site to Saint Hardulph, previously King Eardwulf, and Simons believes it is true. Hardulph was buried at Breedon on the Hill in Leicestershire, five miles from the cave.

Today in Focus podcast: The Olympian who caught Covid

Tom Bosworth was approaching Tokyo 2020 in the shape of his life, the holder of new British 5,000m and 10,000m racewalking records. Then he contracted coronavirus – just as the Games were postponed. He tells how he met the physical and psychological challenges of qualification and competition in 2021.

Today in Focus

The Olympian who caught Covid

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Lunchtime read: ‘Death in Venice screwed up my life’

Björn Andrésen was the striking child star of Luchino Visconti’s classic film, the perfect embodiment of youthful beauty. Fifty years on, he is still haunted by the exploitation that continued long after filming stopped.

, Thursday briefing: ‘Fix UK diet for health and climate’, The Nzuchi Times Guardian
Björn Andrésen and Visconti shooting Death in Venice, 1970. Photograph: Mario Tursi

Sport

Ropes will be set further back from the greens and marshals from the army are set to patrol the tee boxes as the Open prepares to welcome back crowds and protect its players at Royal St George’s. Warren Gatland says his Lions squad firmly believe they can win the forthcoming Test series despite losing 17-13 to a strong South Africa A team. Danni Wyatt returned to form at a crucial moment with an unbeaten 89 from 56 balls to lead England to an eight-wicket win against India in the third T20 at Chelmsford. Khris Middleton scored 40 points, including 10 straight down the stretch, to send the Milwaukee Bucks past the Phoenix Suns and level the NBA finals series at 2-2.

Barcelona are close to announcing that Lionel Messi has signed a contract to 2026 and are in advanced talks over swapping Antoine Griezmann for Atlético Madrid’s Saúl Ñíguez. Lando Norris is fired up for a fight at this weekend’s British Grand Prix, confident that with the right machinery he can take on the world champion, Lewis Hamilton. And the British No 1 Dan Evans has become the latest tennis player to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for Covid-19.

Business

Coventry city council has put forward a blueprint for a huge electric car battery factory which could create up to 6,000 new jobs and maintain the region’s position at the heart of the British automotive industry. Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, said it was “mission critical” for the area to secure the so-called “gigafactory”. The pound has drifted down to $1.384 and €1.168, and the FTSE100 is looking like shedding around 0.2% at the opening.

The papers

The Guardian leads with the startling news that the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon dioxide than it absorbs – in other words, it has been transformed from a carbon sink into a carbon emitter, contributing to the climate crisis. In more environmental news, front page of the Daily Telegraph is the headline “Cars and flights to be hit with green taxes”.

, Thursday briefing: ‘Fix UK diet for health and climate’, The Nzuchi Times Guardian
Guardian front page, Thursday 15 July 2021.

The snack tax gets a high spot on the front page of the Times while its main story is firms “blasting” ministers over the Covid rules “mess”. The FT also leads on businesses’ Covid woes, as they suffer staff shortages caused by the Covid app sending workers home. “PM’s Brexit jet rarely used since £900,000 paint job”, the i reveals, with only one “VIP flight” since January.

The Daily Express reports on this weekend’s heatwave and an expected economic boom over the summer, thanks to many Britons taking staycations. The Daily Mirror and Metro both lead on mask rules, which they respectively report are “chaos” and a “face off”. The Daily Star has a pint of beer on its front page, with the story “Boffins say 2 glasses of wine or a can of beer each day could help save your life”. On the Sun, more on the soccer “jackass” who clenched a lit flare where you wouldn’t normally.

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