We have just marked the end of another successful Healthy Eating Week from the British Nutrition Foundation, which aims to promote healthy eating and drinking, being active, food provenance and cooking in school.
WHO regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, and the industry has an important role ensuring this trend does not escalate into a full-scale health epidemic. In today’s environment, where almost one in five children are classified by official statistics as obese, we as food manufacturers can no longer assume our role should stop at making products. We all have a moral duty to ensure our consumers understand how to enjoy our products as part of a healthy diet, but sometimes it isn’t clear how best to do this. Reformulation and fortification have a role to play - but it doesn’t all have to be about the products themselves.
Education has to play a key role - at Warburtons, we set up our awardwinning School Visitors programme over 20 years ago, and the programme is now supported by the BNF. In the last year alone we reached over 28,000 children across the UK to teach them the importance of a balanced diet, hygiene and safety, food waste and basic food preparation. It’s essential that programmes like this continue to run in primary schools. Research we conducted earlier this year found that by the time you reach the teenage years it can sometimes be too late, with a third of teenagers saying they never think about the nutritional value of their food.
It’s also essential we not just reach the children but their parents as well. There are simple things we can do as food manufacturers to assist parents in making healthy choices for their children - for instance, our research showed 48% of parents think better labelling on products about nutritional value would help ensure children get the right vitamin intake.
The industry needs to come together to share best practice and ensure everybody is doing their bit - this is no longer just ‘nice-to-have’ CSR but a duty to our consumers.
Brett Warburton is executive director at Warburtons