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Action on Sugar has mapped out its battle plan for tackling obesity

Campaign group Action on Sugar has stepped up its rhetoric with a seven-point plan to tackle childhood obesity – including proposals for a sugar tax, which it claimed was a direct response to an appeal from health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Action on Sugar, which met with the health secretary in April, said it had handed over its proposals earlier this month, following a request by Hunt to suggest ways to tackle childhood obesity.

Hunt this week denied the government was planning a sugar tax, despite The Grocer revealing two weeks ago that Public Health England had been drawing up proposals in draft plans for a new DH consultation set to be launched next Thursday – on the same day as the long-awaited SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) report on the role of carbohydrates in the diet.

Action on Sugar’s proposals call for a reduction in added sugars of 40% by 2020 through mandatory reformulation targets; an end to all forms of targeted marketing of high-fat, salty or sugary foods to children; and a tax on soft drinks high in sugar.

It also says the government should scrap the DH’s role for overseeing nutrition, calling for it to be handed over to an independent agency. It claimed the Responsibility Deal has had no major impact in tackling obesity.

The group’s other proposals are to ban junk food sports sponsorships; reduce fat in processed food; and “limit availability” of “ultra-processed foods” and soft drinks.

“The underlying cause of obesity in children is the processed food and drink environment – calling it ‘personal responsibility’ just doesn’t wash anymore,” said Katharine Jenner, public health nutritionist of Action on Sugar. “Whilst individuals do what they can to look after their own welfare, the government must also act in our best interests, rather than those of big business.”

Last week shadow health secretary Andy Burnham confirmed Labour was planning to slap new regulations on sugar levels in children’s food if it came to power, although he repeated Labour’s opposition to a sugar tax.