Food and Drink Federation

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The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is a lobby group in the UK for the food and drink industries. It 'promotes the industry's views and works to build consumer confidence in the food chain as a whole.'


Industry Areas: The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), through its 50 members, directly and indirectly represents approximately 95% of the UK food and drink manufacturing sector[1]. Member organisations include the Rice Association, the Food Association, the Potato Processors Association, the British Soft Drinks Association and the Federation of Bakers[2].

Overview: The FDF represents big business in the food and drink sector. Its current president is Peter Blackburn, former chair of Nestle UK, and now also chair of Northern Foods. Food and drink industries use the FDF to promote their own interests to both government and the public. Such interests typically include:

  • the production of a globally competitive food production system which involves the intensification and genetic modification of agriculture, thereby minimising input costs for the food manufacturing industry;
  • the promotion and support of high profit-margin, high value-added food and drink products - in practice this tends to mean highly processed products, often unhealthy and containing many additives.
  • Ensuring that the research agenda in the universities and research institutions match the ever-increasing need for new products in the processed foods sector.

The FDF relays these interests through various campaigns and lobbying strategies to government and the public. Within government, FDF and/or industry representatives sit on numerous government committees responsible for dealing with food issues.

Market share / Importance: The FDF is the principal trade federation representing UK food and drink producers. Through its 50 members, it represents a gross output of £65 billion, or 14% of total UK manufacturing. 500,000 people are employed within this sector: 12.7% of the UK manufacturing workforce[3].

The FDF therefore calls itself the:

  • Largest packaging client
  • 2nd largest advertising client
  • 3rd largest energy client
  • Furthermore, the FDF indirectly (through its members) buys 2/3 of all UK agricultural produce.

Lobbying campaigns

Working Against Junk Food Ban

The FDF has worked against a government ban on advertising of junk food to children to fight obesity . The FDF has been a key player in a huge "lobbying campaign in Whitehall to see off growing pressure for regulation to tackle obesity and diet-related diseases". According to leaked documents, the then Director General of the FDF, Sylvia Jay went to see the Public Health Minister, Melanie Johnson. 'Minutes of the meeting show that the FDF took the opportunity to tell the minister that the industry would oppose any proposals to reduce fat and sugar in foods along the lines of the work being done to reduce salt', recorded The Guardian in 2004.

By 2006 as the regulatory authorities began drawing consultations on a junk food advertising ban, the food industry including the FDF was being accused of "derailing" them. Documents released under FOI show that the Broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, met food bosses 29 times between May 2005 and March 2006.

Food campaigners want all junk food advertising banned before the 9pm watershed to protect children of all ages. However, the FDF is one of the main organizations fighting to oppose this. In September 2006, when the National Heart Forum renewed call for a ban on junk food advertising pre-9pm, arguing that responses on Ofcom's website to its consultation were "100 to one" in favour of a pre-9pm ban. Those in favour include over 40 consumer and health organizations and even the government's Food Standards Agency . The FDF though argued that "A ban up to the watershed is overly restrictive and unnecessarily curbs advertising to a mostly adult audience".

Protecting processed and unhealthy food

The FDF has come to the defence of companies accused of producing food high in salts, fats, sugars, additives and preservatives. After a jury of 800 parents recruited by the Food Commission targeted certain foods such as Sunny Delight for being unhealthy, Martin Paterson responded that "No one food is bad - balance is the key - and demonising individual products which are marketed as snacks or treats may be unhelpful to both parents and children ." When the think tank Demos proposed a food tax on high fat foods, Paterson called the idea "patronising" and said it would "hit lower income families" and "be a tax on choice".

Against reduction in Salt levels

The FDF has spoken out in defence of salt in food which is linked to increased heart disease and blood pressure. In the late nineties the medical journal the Lancet published research that found that the level of salt can be significantly reduced without sacrificing taste, Martin Paterson responded by saying there was "over-excitement about the use of salt" and that "the majority of the population enjoy the use of salt and understand that it has been used for thousands of years to the benefit of the consumer ."

In May 2003, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced guidelines on maximum recommended salt intakes for children. Food watch-dog, the Food Commission warned that with so much hidden salt in children's food, it would be hard for parents to achieve the targets without a significant reduction of salt. However, the FDF was against regulatory action. A year later, tests showed that bread, crisps, beans and soup were as salty as ever , so the FSA suggested that labelling should declare the salt content of food. The FDF continued to oppose such labelling recommendations .

Against FSA's "Traffic Light" System

In 2004, a survey of shoppers by the UK Food Standards Agency found that they backed "traffic light" coding for food so they could tell what is healthy and what is not. The moves were opposed by Martin Paterson for the FDF, who said, "Simplistic schemes which categorise products into good and bad could seriously mislead consumers."

Pro-GM and Against Labelling of GM-ingredients

In the late nineties, the FDF argued to a government Select Committee that the use of genetic modification of food production can provide benefits throughout the food chain: to primary producers; food processors and consumers … we do not believe that genetic modification per se presents any food safety risk or that foods produced using GMOs represent a special class of new foods, and that we believe they should be subject to the same type of risk assessment as any other new food product and its intended use, rather than its method of development . In 2002, the FDF also attacked moves from Brussels to tighten up GM labelling regulations as "ridiculous and unworkable " It now runs the website foodfuture, whose role is ostensibly to inform the public, but it is pro-GM.

Greenwashing 'food miles'

Although concerns over food miles have increased in recent years as has the demand for local and seasonal food, the FDF has tried to argue that food miles are less of a problem than domestic refrigeration and cooking. The FDF has also argued that consumers would not support any moves to restrict the year-round availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables and that ready cooked meals are more ecological than home cooked food.

Corrupting local food

The FDF sponsored a conference run by South West Food and Drink in June 2004, the organization set up to promote local and regional food from the region. The key-note speech was by Paul Freeston on 'Apetito – A South West success story'. Apetito's subsidiary, Wiltshire Foods, may South-West based, but the Apetito group is one of Europe's leading suppliers of frozen food and catering meals with its head office in Germany. One delegate noted: "When asked what percentage of ingredients used in "Wiltshire Farm" foods is actually sourced from the South West, Freeston was unable to supply a figure or even name a single supplier. 'We buy beef from South America and chicken from Thailand' he said, 'where the quality is very good'".

Stopped foot and mouth vaccination plan

At the height of the foot and mouth crisis in 2001, the government was considering a limited vaccination policy which would have saved tens of thousands of animals from being needlessly slaughtered. Blair had announced that vaccination was the best option, but the plan was scrapped after lobbying by the food industry, including Peter Blackburn, the then chief executive of Nestlé UK, and president of the FDF, as well as the FDF's then chief executive, Lady Sylvia Jay. "We argued against a vaccination policy" argued Blackburn. "We were very afraid of the consequences on all meat and dairy exports ."

Against FSA Nutrient Profiling

The FDF was disappointed with the Nutrient Profiling (NP) model which was created by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as a tool to measure foods which were high in fats, salt and sugar (HFSS). In a response to the NP review panel's recommendations the FDF claimed they “remain concerned that the profiling model is selective and arbitrary and not based on clear scientific evidence” and that it “that it perpetuates the myth that individual foods can be objectively described as “healthy” or “unhealthy”.”

In this response, they go on to say, “FDF rejects FSA’s claim that there will be no additional costs to industry with the use of this model, as we feel the claim can not be substantiated. Indeed as the purpose of its use by Ofcom appears to be to try and distort the market by discouraging sales of particular products, then it is hard to see how this can not be a contradiction. We therefore request an objective and independent impact assessment and a cost benefit analysis.”




Governing Body of ICC in the UK. Leadership Team of Business in the Environment




The Food and Drink Federation was a donor to the Science Media Centre in 2012 and 2013. [4]

References, Resources and Contact





  1. BSB:Members (No lonver available 23 October 2007)
  2. FDF website FDF:Members (Accessed: 23 October 2007)
  3. UK Food and Drink Industry Statistics 2000
  4. SMC, Funding, accessed 29 September 2013. See also Science Media Centre - Funding
  5. File no longer available