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UK food supply chain vulnerable to cyber-attack, expert warns

Britain’s food supply is highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks, a leading food expert has warned, saying greater emphasis on domestic production would boost the UK’s food security.

“If anyone wanted to really damage the British food system, they could just take out the satellites,” said Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City, University of London. “Our ‘just-in-time’ system is entirely dependent on computerised logistics. When you pay for your food at the checkout, the computer isn’t just adding up the bill, it’s reordering the stock.”

Lang’s warning comes before the publication this month of the second part of a national food strategy commissioned by the government. Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, was appointed in 2019 to oversee a review of the UK’s food system. The first part, published last year, said Brexit was a “once-in- a-lifetime opportunity” to reshape policy.

Leaks of the forthcoming report suggest it will recommend a 6% tax on foods with a high salt content, which could increase the price of a Big Mac by 20p and put an extra 5p on a bag of crisps. Dimbleby’s recommendations will be followed by a white paper next year that will lead to a new food act, making the next 12 months critical.

An alternative report, co-authored by Lang, Erik Millstone, emeritus professor of science policy at Sussex University, and Terry Marsden, professor of environmental policy and planning at Cardiff University, says the government has been complacent about food security and “places excessive reliance on others” to feed its population. “Ministers have so far set no clear goals for the UK food system post-Brexit, or even for levels of home production,” the academics say in Testing Times for UK Food Policy, published this week. “The government’s default position is to leave food matters to corporate interests.”

According to Lang, the UK should be aiming to be 80% self-sufficient in food production, compared with about 50% now. “We currently produce only 52% of the vegetables [we eat], and 10% or 11% of fruit. We import apples and pears. This is ludicrous.”

Source: The Guardian

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