Burger obesity

Government must not succumb to pressure to postpone action on childhood obesity, said Barbara Crowther of the Children’s Food Campaign

Campaign group leaders have accused the industry of trying to blackmail the government over a threat to withdraw from talks on areas such as obesity because of Brexit.

Yesterday it emerged food industry leaders had signalled in a letter to environment secretary Michael Gove that they would suspend co-operation with the government on a raft of consultations unless the threat of a “catastrophic” no-deal was lifted.

Today the FDF confirmed it meant more than 30 food groups would refuse to take part in consultations including moves to slash ‘junk food’ promotions, reform rules on HFSS advertising and reduce calories in PHE’s reformulation programme.

However, Barbara Crowther, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, urged the government to “keep the pressure on”.

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She said; “The government must hold firm and not succumb to pressure to postpone action to act on childhood obesity, as they promised to do in 2018.

“As charities and health bodies, we have far fewer resources than these massive food companies, and yet we are working hard to respond to all the government consultations.

“It’s up to them if they want to do the same. The government should not be bribed to delay its action on sugar.”

Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar said: “It would be disastrous if the food industry were to suspend cooperation with the government, especially at this crucial time when gradual progress is finally starting to be made. We urge the prime minister to finalise a deal that works in the best interests of the public, and not to kowtow to the food industry, which only has its own profits at heart.”

FDF chief executive Ian Wright today said those who accused the industry of using the tactic to get out of reforms it did not like were being “cynical”.

“The simple fact is that this is the biggest threat that our members have faced since 1939,” he said, adding that dealing with the threat of Brexit had become “all-consuming”.