Weight fat overweight calorie reduction

Health campaigners have sent a message to Theresa May urging her not to let the industry “set the agenda again” when the government finally gets round to publishing its delayed childhood obesity strategy.

The Children’s Food Campaign said the new PM must learn from the experience of the Responsibility Deal, which relied on voluntary action from the food and drink industry to tackle health, rather than mandatory measures.

The letter also calls on the PM not to offer any further “last chances” for the industry to show it can successfully self-regulate, whilst introducing financial penalties for those who fail to respond to mandatory targets.

Last week, Action on Sugar voiced anger over what it claimed were “watered down” policies in a leak of the much-delayed strategy, which it claimed had “no specifics about any marketing restrictions” and only required a 20% reduction in sugar content - far undercutting the lobby’s calls for a 50% reduction.

It also revealed the proposals were set to be entirely voluntary, despite the BRC calling for mandatory targets.

“Letting the food and advertising industries set the terms of their commitments on tackling the marketing of junk food to children is no way to prioritise public health; nor is refusing to enact penalties for companies who don’t fully implement their commitments, or who don’t sign up at all,” said Malcolm Clark, the campaign’s co-ordinator of Children’s Food Campaign, said:

“We are alarmed by reports that the Government appears to have given in to industry’s economically short-sighted demands for purely voluntary measures and a lack of firm commitments on restrictions on marketing to children and promotion of less healthy food and drink. The Responsibility Deal is proof that such an approach does not work and will do little to ease the burden of diet-related ill-health on people’s lives and on the NHS budget.”

“What is needed is a level playing field so all companies have to do the right thing, including an end to marketing junk food at children. Public Health England set out a clear road map of recommendations for achieving that. We call on the Government to rethink their Childhood Obesity Strategy and ensure that - as a minimum - these policies are included when the document is officially published.”