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City University, London

UOA 40 - Social Work and Social Policy & Administration

RA5a: Research environment and esteem





The Centre for Food Policy (CFP) is in Community and Health Sciences at The City University. The School encompasses a number of health-related departments; CFP also engages widely across the University: Social Sciences (social justice and methodology), Cass Business School (corporate responsibility), Informatics (on traceability). The central London location supports CFP active observation of, and engagement in, policy-making. CFP also utilises its strong institutional links with East London on public health matters (in research for Primary Care Trusts, membership of London Health Observatory, and raising food issues for the forthcoming Olympics).




There are three full-time staff: David Barling (DB), Martin Caraher (MC) and Tim Lang (TL); five active Hon Research Fellows: Drs Charlie Clutterbuck, John Coveney, Corinna Hawkes, Michael Heasman, Geof Rayner; 13 doctoral students; and five research assistants on contracts since 2002, working on ethical traceability, food access, food supply and food companies and health projects.




The CFP joined City University in 2002 to locate food policy within a broader research base and has since expanded work, research and impact, built the doctoral programme and consolidated its unique Masters programmes. All core staff, researchers and doctoral students have good technology infrastructure, office space, computers, meeting facilities support and library systems for all, including visitors. The CFP benefits from participation in University research and ethics committees, and from support from the Research Grants and Contracts office and School research administrative officer.


Research Structure


CFP researches food as an intersection of many policy areas, particularly social policy, public health, environment, consumers and social justice. The overarching research commitments are: the promotion of better understanding of contemporary food policy-making processes; engagement in strategically important issues from a public interest perspective; contributing to democratic debate about the shape of the food system; and exploring linkages between social justice, health, the environment and citizens’/consumers’ role. These commitments are pursued both in research and engagement opportunities such as membership of governmental and non-governmental bodies and advisory and stakeholder committees at national, regional-local, European and international levels.


The doctoral programme illustrates that mix. One student researching the rise and fall of home economics in England is supporting efforts by the Worshipful Company of Cooks and other groups to promote a modern role for food skills in schools. Another researching fish policy is on the Sustain multi-NGO fish working party. One completing research on pesticide policy is advising two large foundations and has presented at three international conferences. Another completing on diabetes among East London Bangladeshis both works in that community and advises local health bodies.


The Centre’s Hon Research Fellows complement this research approach. Coveney at Flinders, Australia, and MC have contributed to Victoria’s consultation on food, health and sustainability policy. Clutterbuck works with TL developing thinking on carbon labelling and eco-labelling now feeding into the Co-op and Sustainable Development Commission. Rayner co-wrote with TL the policy input to Chief Scientist’s Foresight Obesity report (October 2007). Rayner, Hawkes and TL contributed to the WHO/World Bank strategy on food marketing in the Far East. Hawkes wrote and organised International Food Policy Research Institute’s policy papers on agriculture and health, which included the Centre’s analysis. Heasman, at the Dept Rural Economy, University of Alberta expanded work with TL for a new strategy for Canadian agri-food industries and is a core worker on current Agriculture Canada revisions to innovation and food policy.


Research income


The Centre’s income in 2002-07 from research and research-consultancies has been around £243k, ranging from longer projects such as an EU 6th Framework project (£66k) or a local food and health audit (£45k) to a review for DfID on food standards and a review of big companies’ food and health commitments for WHO. Research publications result from funded work: EU 6th framework, NHS Primary Care Trusts, Foundations and consultancy. Staff do research work pro bono for appropriate causes: eg MC’s review of cooking in schools for the School Food Trust (2006), and TL and Bowyer (RA)’s review of consumer attitudes to food security for Chatham House food supply WP (2006).


Research Students


The doctoral programme has grown considerably: 2 students in 2001 grew to 14 in autumn 2007. 10 were MPhil/PhD students (pre-transfer), 4 PhD students (transferred). 3 of these complete early 2008. 5 are full-time, the rest part-time. 5 are funded (Sheepdrove Trust, Barts & London Trust, Worshipful Co. Cooks, British Columbia Health, Aristotle Onassis Foundation). Two others have contributions from employers. 5 International students are from: Australia, Malawi, Greece, Canada, USA (4 based abroad).




CFP interests range across the food supply chain (agriculture to consumption), civil society (NGOs to low-income consumers) and the state (local to international). The Centre is an acknowledged base for new thinking on food policy internationally and nationally. Research themes are: the shape of food systems; governance and power; ecological public health; food culture; food justice; food futures. CFP perspectives are continually sought by fellow academics, Governments, civil society, and corporate sector. In Sept 2007, CFP en bloc was appointed advisor to the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit review of food and food policy (reporting spring 2008), TL being first presenter at Cabinet Office. TL advised WHO European Region on its 2nd Food and Nutrition Action Plan, expanding work with MC for 1st FNAP (2000). DB and TL conducted the UK wheat study for a 5-country EU 6th framework study on ethical traceability, which the EU Agriculture Commissioner welcomed as charting a new future for EU food policy. MC advised the Food Standards Agency and other bodies on school food and has played a major role in supporting local food policy development, particularly South East, West Midlands and South West England. Since 2001, staff and fellows have actively contributed to debates on food policy modernisation, highlighting mismatches between social justice and welfare (e.g. food poverty; school meals; access to healthcare), the supply chain (supermarkets, food access, availability and affordability), state roles in food systems (governance, information flows, concentration and competition policy) and environmental impact (food miles, ecological public health).


Esteem indicators


DB is on the Editorial Board of Agriculture & Human Values, an international multidisciplinary journal; a member of the Research Committee on the Sociology of Agriculture and Food (RC 40) of the International Sociological Association; and is member of the European Society for Rural Sociology and the Political Studies Association of the UK. He edited (+ TL) a large, themed section of Political Quarterly on food politics (2003). He has given ten invited international papers eg: Australia-New Zealand Agri-Food Research Network (2001 & 2003); USDA’s Economic Research Service, Washington, D.C. (2005); EC ethical traceability Brussels seminar (2006); ESF Changing European Food Systems, Hungary (2007). Memberships include: DEFRA’s Organic Action Plan team for England; Food Standards Agency’s Consumer Consultative Committee on Codex (UN body); and co-opted member, British Standards Institute Committee (AW/90) on Quality Systems for the Food Industry. He is also a Council member of Sustain (100+ NGOs), chairing its Good Food on a Public Plate project (sustainable food and public procurement). He sits on the UK Food Group (Development and Consumer NGOs). He is invited reviewer for ESRC and RELU (joint research council funded) grant applications, as well as for journals.

MC was in 2007 an invited reviewer of all food and physical activity funding proposals to the EU’s Public Health Executive Agency. In 2006, he reviewed the World Cancer Research Fund/AICR’s 5 year systematic review of evidence on food, diet and cancer (October 2007). Since 2004 he has been a member of the Committee of the Australian Public Health Nutrition Collaboration and advised VicHealth (a state body). He sits on various UK Primary Care Trust and Strategic Health Authority Trust expert panels on food and schools.  He was invited contributor to the US Institute of Medicine Advertising review (2005) and the Swedish Action Plan for Healthy Dietary Habits and Increased Physical Activity (2004). He regularly reviews for 15 journals e.g. Social Science & Medicine and the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. He is a London Food Board member (Mayor of London) and the SE Regional Development Agency’s Food Strategy Group. He chairs the National Health Communities Collaborative [Food]. MC has been a BBC Radio 4 Food Awards judge for two years. He is chair of the National Primary Care Collaborative (Food), on behalf of the Dept of Health. Since 2001, he has given over 20 international papers eg: Australian Public Health Nutrition (2001), European Food Law, Brussels (2004), Home Economics Institute of Australia (2005), 18th International Conference on Nutrition, Durban (2005), Institut National de Santé Publique, Québec (2005), Australian National Health Promotion (2007), New Zealand Nutrition and Public Health (2007). In 2006 he gave the ‘Food Policy’ Lecture in BBC Wales’ Regeneration Public Lecture Series. He has written two invited journal editorials, most recently for Health Education Journal.


TL is on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (1998ff), Food Service Technology (2000ff), and International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability (2002ff). He is a member (since 2005) of WHO’s Virtual Network of Experts on the Implementation of the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. In 2002-03 he was on FAO’s Advisory group on Urban Food & Nutrition Security. In 2002-07, he was a Board member of ESRC/AHRC’s Cultures of Consumption programme. In 2002-05, he sat on Defra’s advisory group for the Horizon Scanning research project reporting to the Chief Defra Scientist. He was an expert advisor to the Chief Scientist’s Foresight/OST obesity programme in 2005-07 and has been appointed (with GR) a member of the interim follow-up core expert group. In 2006, he was appointed to the Sustainable Development Commission, a Nolan appointment reporting to the Prime Minister, responsible for food and natural resources. In 2001, he was elected a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health (of the Royal College of Physicians), the first occasion non-medics were given this status. He won the Caroline Walker Trust Award in 2003, the BBC Radio 4 Derek Cooper Award 2004 and his Atlas of Food (with Erik Millstone) won the André Simon food book of the year award (2003). In 2007, he was given the Observer Food Magazine’s Lifetime Award. He has been expert advisor to three Commons select committees inquiries since 2001 (on food standards, agriculture & globalisation, obesity).





Writing and output


Centre output covers refereed journals, books, chapters, reports (Government and NGO) and grey literature. In 2001-07, staff produced two books; 25 book chapters; 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals (Social Policy & Administration, J European Social Policy, Political Quarterly, Health Education Journal, Health Promotion International, Public Health Nutrition, Public Health); and over 30 reports for governments, foundations and public interest bodies. Writing covers general food policy (writing and co-ordinating Political Quarterly special issue) to topics within discourses (e.g. policy councils, technology impact, international standards, organics).


DB has one edited book completed, reporting on the EU Ethical Traceability project (Springer 2008). Since 2001 he has written/co-written 7 journal articles (Soc Policy & Admin, Political Quarterly, J Agric & Environmental Ethics, Public Health Nutrition); 7 chapters in books (incl. international standards, organics, multilevel governance, EU regulation, GM, supermarkets’ environmental impact); and four reports for governmental and European bodies: DfID (trade standards), Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Codex); European Commission 6th framework (ethical traceability); and European Science Foundation/COST (food system changes).


MC has written 16 articles in journals (e.g. Public Health Nutrition, Health Education Journal, Social Policy & Administration), over 20 reports and 11 chapters in books. The focus of these publications has been on the social policy aspects of food in nutrition, health promotion and public health. A key element of this work has been a focus on schools, project management and evaluation, the role of local food projects and voluntary labour in achieving nutrition and food outcomes, advertising to children, food taxation, and food poverty. A common focus is developing/contributing to policy evidence at the level of implementation and practice.


TL has, since 2001, produced two new books: Food Wars (with Heasman), and Atlas of Food, 2nd edition Unmanageable Consumer (with Y Gabriel). He has written/co-written on food policy generally and specifically eg animal welfare, consumer activism, eco-health, policy councils, producing: 12 journal articles (J Euro Soc Pol, Soc Pol & Admin, Food Policy, Health Promotion International, Political Quarterly, Public Health Nutrition, Public Health); 3 editorials (British Medical Journal - functional foods, PHN  - WHO/FAO global food report, JECH - globalisation), 13 chapters in books (5 with MC/ DB); 7 Government reports/papers (UK, Wales, Scotland, Sweden, UN-SCN); 5 other reports (e.g. Demos, IFPRI). He writes in public outlets eg The Guardian/The Times, Food Magazine and The Grocer. He comments regularly in the media.


Conference, keynotes and invited papers


Since 2001, CFP has given papers at 50+ national/international conferences in 12 countries. Academic conferences include: Spanish Society for Epidemiology (2001), Nutrition Society (2002), Association for the Study of Food & Society/Agriculture, Food & Human Values Society (Minneapolis 2001), ANZ Agri-Food Network (2001, 2003, 2007), EU Gastin health conference (2003), European Society for Rural Sociology (Norway 2004), EUPHA (Paris 2004), 3rd Canadian Food Security (2005), Irish Public Health Association (2002), 16th ISA World Congress of Sociology RC-40 Sociology of Agriculture & Food (Durban 2006), European Potato Industry (2005), Canadian Public Health Congress (Montreal 2006), Australian Health Promotion Association (2007), 1st International Conference of Public Health (Lisbon 2007), Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers (2007). Invited papers to governmental conferences include: OECD Food and Agriculture (2003), US Dept Agriculture’s ERS ‘Policy and Competitiveness in a changing global food industry’, Washington DC (2005), WHO ASEAN review of food marketing and health conference within the 6th Global Health Promotion conference (Bangkok 2005). Invited presentations to food industry bodies include to the Marks & Spencer entire food management, Co-operative Group Board, Waitrose, United Co-op, Syngenta annual parliamentary meeting, CIES (the global food sector body on standards) bi-annual conference. Keynotes to national professional conferences include: Environmental Health Practitioners, Community Practitioners & Health Visitors, and Public Health/Health Promotion associations in UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ, Canada.




The CFP team plays a leading role in developing modern food policy theory, championing the subject within social and public policy and developing specific issues and offering concepts for scrutiny. It champions food as a nexus for society, economy, health and environment, analysing ‘ecological public health’ as an emerging paradigm. DB developed the notion of ‘the reluctant state’ in relation to policy integration and change in UK food policy. DB and TL explore the notion of multilevel governance to food policy and the public-private sector governance interface. MC, TL, Rayner and Hawkes propose a cultural dimension to the Nutrition Transition theory, championing the notion of ‘culinary transition’ (decline of cooking application) as a feature of food industrialisation and urbanisation. TL and Rayner’s analysis that obesity suffers from ‘policy cacophony’ was central to the 2007 Foresight obesity report. TL and Heasman’s ‘Food Wars’ thesis (a paradigmatic shift from productionism to a tension between life sciences reductionism and ecological holism) was headline theme of the 2007 Australia-New Zealand Agri-Food Research Network, the social scientists’ collaboration. TL’s notion of ‘food democracy’ in contradistinction to the notion of food rights has also gained currency.




The team’s methodological contribution includes: the seminal systematic review of the impact of advertising conducted for the Food Standards Agency (MC), showing that a ‘soft’ subject traditionally resistant to scrutiny of impact could in fact be subjected to policy review. MC reviewed the new protocol for the 2nd World Cancer Research Fund Diet and Cancer report policy section (reporting Oct 2008), and pioneered a form of food access local audit for PCTs. MC and TL are applying this in current research reviewing school healthy eating initiatives in schools (due 2008). He has also been instrumental in influencing key funding agencies to shift research focus from evidence-based practice to generating practice-based evidence. DB and TL have developed a method for tracking 10 ethical features throughout a complex food chain (wheat to bread) for the EU 6th framework international study. In research for Dept for International Development, DB and TL introduced wider public health criteria into analysis of standards in food trade liberalisation. At WHO’s request, TL, Rayner and two business analysts developed a new audit methodology to review transnational corporations’ reporting on health matters (2006), now being further developed in a second study of European food and drink companies. This approach built on methodology MC and TL developed for the IIED ‘Race to the Top’ project (Defra/Esmée Fairbairn-funded) to produce a composite, multi-factorial review of food retailers’ impact on civil society. MC continued this, contributing to the National Consumer Council’s Supermarket Health audit reports (2004 & 2005). ‘Food miles’, a term and analysis TL proposed (1992), has been debated as a national indicator (UK and Scotland), is used worldwide and the centre of a major debate about how food system ‘efficiencies’ may be judged (e.g. by WTO, Defra, New Zealand, Texas), and by whom: experts or consumers? Of lower profile but with equal reach has been CFP’s intergovernmental, inter-agency week-long rapid appraisal food and nutrition policy review package. Written for WHO/FAO, it was developed over 7 years, involving two Fellows (Clutterbuck & Heasman), is now run in 4 continents (c.70 countries), and was successfully audited internationally in South Africa in early 2006.


Policy-making debates


Four examples illustrate the Centre’s long-term commitment to policy-making. The Centre co-ordinated and co-wrote (TL, Rayner, MC) the only counter-position to the Curry Commission on Farming and Food (2002), set up after the 2001 UK Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. Arguing health should be core to food supply, our report was published by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Faculty of Public Health (Royal College of Physicians) and UK Public Health Association. MC leads on policy framing school meals and children’s food, with contributions from TL and Rayner, building on critiques begun by TL in the 1980s. MC and TL work jointly on cooking and social inclusion/food poverty since 1994. MC contributed to Strathclyde University’s Food Standards Agency review of marketing (Hastings 2004). Both helped Jamie Oliver (2003-04); TL launched the strategy with Mr Oliver at the Royal College of Physicians (2004). TL and MC continue active engagement through the Caroline Walker Trust/School Food Trust. MC and TL advise the Worshipful Company of Cooks and Adopt-a-School programme.


TL and DB have written extensively on aspects of food security since the 1990s: TL on the GATT and creation of the WTO; DB on the politics of the use of new technology in food supply chains. Since 2005, they have helped Chatham House create a WP, championing the need to think beyond military resilience/risks, and towards a people-focused approach linking security, sustainability consumer justice. In 2007, TL and DB won funding for a scoping study on policies on reconciling food security and environmental sustainability from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (reporting 2008). TL  became a formal researcher for Chatham House’s £300k Phase 2 (2007-08).


Another example is the development of a methodology for health auditing food companies. In 2005, the WHO Assistant Director General asked CFP to assess international food companies’ responses to the World Health Assembly’s 2004 resolution on tackling global diet and exercise related ill-health. CFP developed a methodology with HBOS and JP Morgan analysts, measuring performance against 39 criteria, which were  applied to the world’s top 25 food companies. This had a powerful impact for WHO and from companies’ responses, and received supportive independent reviews (eg the Lancet). It led to a new code of conduct brokered by the International Business Leaders Forum and Insight Investment. The CFP methodology is revised and being applied in a second study (due 2008).


Policy-making involvement


The Centre’s ethos seeks contribution to ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ track policy engagement, linking academic, public (eg USDA, OECD, UN Standing Committee on Nutrition) and civil discourse (eg National Trust, Greenpeace, Compassion in World Farming). In that vein, DB sits on Defra’s organic action plan committee (2002ff) and chairs Sustain’s public sector procurement project (sustainable food for hospitals, schools and care homes in SE England). MC is a member of the South East Public Health Food Strategy, and helped develop the new London Food Strategy. MC worked with Dowler at Warwick on auditing local food projects, and on the effects of marketing on food choice. He has also conducted a review of the implications of food taxation as a possible policy lever (an issue Hawkes works on). TL has worked on two policy processes for UK Devolved Administrations, chairing the review of the Scottish Diet Action Plan 2005-06 and, with Dowler and others, a review for the Wales Assembly in 2006-07. He has spent 2006-07 reviewing Government’s relationship with supermarkets for the Sustainable Development Commission (published 2008).


Future strategy


The Centre met its 2001 RAE target to build food policy as a serious social science subject. It has grown funding sources, developed a doctoral programme, engaged policy-makers, and improved its research environment. Research is central to its educational role, delivering high calibre graduates and student research.


In the next 5 years, we intend to pursue our ‘direction of travel’ of ensuring a better understanding of, and role for, food policy. Specifically, we intend to create new establishment posts, based around both research and teaching on new pathways in existing courses. We intend to pursue research opportunities we have opened up in this RAE period, including: the direction of UK food policy in a multilevel world; the role of food in social/public policy in a corporate world; the (im)balance between interest groups (eg in defining food security, food poverty, sustainable development); monitoring trends in the food economy; and concepts, methods and strategies for ecological public health.