The what, why and how of health and development

Government’s obesity plan described as ‘massive damp squib’

The government announced today a long-awaited plan to tackle childhood obesity – but the “watered-down” proposal seems to only have left a bad taste in people’s mouths.

Instead of proposing regulations on how sugary products can be advertised to young people – which had been included in earlier drafts – the plan asks the food and drink industry to voluntarily cut sugar in products.

The voluntary target is a 5% cut to the sugar in products popular with children over the next year, with the ultimate target 20%. The plan also includes proposals to get schools to make sure children have 30 minutes of exercise a day.

This had been billed as a major policy to tackle obesity, which research suggests is a growing problem in the UK, especially among children. According to NHS figures released in April, more than 1 in 5 children in Reception, and 1 in 3 children in Year 6 were measured as obese or overweight in 2014-2015.

The best estimate we have of the cost of obesity – mainly as a result of the cancer, diabetes and heart disease it causes – is around 27 billion GBP a year (although as the ever-brilliant Full Fact point out the data behind these are a bit old and uncertain).

But from Jamie Oliver to former Health ministers, everyone is a bit disappointed with what’s being described as a “damp squib” of a policy. One of the biggest questions is whether companies will actually do anything to meet a voluntary target.

A similar initiative with salt years ago suggests it could be possible. Over ten years ago, a collaboration with the food industry to get salt levels down – with voluntary targets and strict monitoring of the companies – was successful for a few years.

Sonia Pombo, from the Campaign for Consensus on Salt and Health told the BBC’s You and Yours programme today that voluntary targets for sugar levels could also work “provided it was done in the right way.”

“Unfortunately, this obesity plan looks weak and watered down,” she said. One of her main concerns is that responsibility for monitoring the sugar levels will fall to the government’s Responsibility Deal, which she says has failed to monitor salt levels since taking over the remit a few years ago.

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One Comment on “Government’s obesity plan described as ‘massive damp squib’”

  1. Nick says:

    A failure even before it’s begun..


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