The government’s childhood obesity strategy will “let down future generations” the Obesity Health Alliance – a coalition of 33 leading national charities, Royal Colleges and campaign groups – has said.
The Obesity Health Alliance says the measures announced today are far from an ambitious strategy and let down the next generation who will pay the price for the government’s failure to take strong action. The measures on their own will not tackle the obesity crisis and are not sufficient to reduce the rising toll of ill-health, premature deaths and unsustainable costs to the NHS, the alliance has said.
While the Alliance welcomed the government’s soft drinks levy, describing it as a bold and positive step forward, they said the plan outlined today lacks ambition and will fail to tackle childhood obesity as promised in the Government’s manifesto.
Plans set out in the strategy include:
- Introducing a soft drinks industry levy
- Taking out 20% of sugar in products
- Helping all children to enjoy an hour of physical activity every day
- Creating a new healthy rating scheme for primary schools
- Making school food healthier
- Clearer food labelling
However, the Obesity Health Alliance has expressed a number of concerns, saying:
- The Government has missed an opportunity to take action to protect children from junk food marketing – despite there being clear evidence of the impact advertising has on their food choices. The Alliance has called on the government to remove junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed, as evidence shows that advertising of unhealthy food and drink makes it very difficult for children and their families to make healthy choices and greatly influences the food they eat.
- The plan to introduce voluntary targets for food manufacturers to reduce the amount of added sugar falls well short of what is needed. The 20% sugar reduction target will not be sufficient to meet the government’s own recommended level of free sugars making up no more than 5% of total energy intake.
In a joint statement the Obesity Health Alliance said: “The Government’s plan is underwhelming and a missed opportunity to tackle the obesity crisis and its devastating burden on the health of both society and the NHS.
“We live in an environment where children and their families are bombarded by junk food advertising and many everyday foods and drinks are stuffed full of fat and sugar. This is fuelling the huge numbers of children we are seeing who are overweight and obese, and therefore at great risk of serious health conditions in adult life such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and cancer as well as associated mental health problems. These conditions are not only personally devastating but are costly and pose a real threat to the sustainability of our already overstretched health service.
“This is why we need strong and bold Government action to make it as easy as possible for children and their families to make healthier choices and lead healthier lives. While the launch of the soft drinks industry levy consultation is an important step, the Government’s plan falls disappointingly short of what is needed. In particular, there is strong evidence that shows that targets, backed by regulation, for the food and drinks industry to make their products healthier and removing junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed would have a huge impact on reducing levels of obesity so it is very disappointing to see that both of these measures have been significantly watered down or removed entirely.
“These measures are critical to protecting public health and alleviating the devastating impact of obesity on the nation’s finances and they have strong support from the public. With the new school term approaching, one in three children will be starting secondary school overweight or obese. The Government cannot afford to shy away from this challenge. For the sake of the health of our children we need strong action right now.”