UK National Food Strategy ignores seafood, leaving Seafish miffed

U.K. trade body Seafish – a group dedicated to supporting the United Kingdom's seafood industry – has criticized the recently released second report on the U.K. National Food Strategy for its lack of focus on seafood.

The National Food Strategy is a report commissioned by the government, comprising an independent review to set out a vision plan for a better food system for the United Kingdom. Within the latest report, according to Seafish CEO Marcus Coleman, seafood has been “sidelined.”

“The report is an interesting and well-researched account of the challenges faced. There are excellent insights into some of the social challenges associated with our food system, from the impact that the junk food cycle has on human health, to issues of inequality and deprivation, to the invisibility of nature in food production systems,” Coleman wrote in a response to the new report. “However, working for an organization that is focused on supporting the U.K. seafood industry, I was surprised that the role that seafood can play in addressing these challenges is not addressed. Seafood is sidelined, with a one-line explanation on page six: ‘We have deliberately narrowed our focus onto the land.’”

Coleman said seafood’s minimized role in the report runs counter to the role that it already plays in the country’s diet. The U.K. eats more than four billion seafood meals each year, and represents a healthy source of protein that is high in omega-3 fats, vitamins, and minerals, he said.

Consumption of seafood in the U.K. currently doesn’t meet government guidelines. Average consumption in the country, Coleman said, is only 1.15 portions per person per week, when the government has recommended at least two portions per week.

“We eat on average 21 meals a week, so it’s disappointing to see that we are struggling to include seafood in just two or three of them. We also fall well short when compared with other nations like Iceland, Portugal and Spain,” Coleman said.

Seafish has been working to turn those consumption numbers around. In 2020, the organization launched a new initiative called “Love Seafood” that is intended to get U.K. consumers more interested in consuming seafood.

“It’s a long-term strategy to nudge the U.K. population along the right track to increasing their consumption by 2040,” Coleman said.

Central to the effort to increase consumption is work to increase understanding of seafood, including how to shop for it responsibly, how to store it, and how to prepare it.

“We need to positively influence attitudes and perceptions before we’ll change consumption,” Coleman said.

A study by Seafish in 2019 indicated that the majority of U.K. residents want to eat more seafood, and the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have boosted consumption, according to Nielsen ScanTrack data. Capitalizing on that, Coleman said, will be essential for the U.K.

“For us, it’s clear that seafood has a vital part to play – both in providing a healthy food source and in future food security,” he said. “Many in the seafood industry get out of bed every morning because we truly believe seafood is the way forward. It’s not just a clever strapline; it’s our reason for being because when the seafood sector thrives, the whole nation thrives.”  

Photo courtesy of Seafish


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