Full list of proposed measures:
- Strong controls on price promotions of unhealthy food and drink
- Tougher controls on marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and drink
- A centrally led reformulation programme to reduce sugar in food and drink
- A sugary drinks tax on full-sugar soft drinks, in order to help change behaviour, with all proceeds targeted to help those children at greatest risk of obesity
- Labelling of single portions of products with added sugar to show sugar content in teaspoons
- Improved education and information about diet
- Universal school food standards
- Greater powers for local authorities to tackle the environment leading to obesity
- Early intervention to offer help to families of children affected by obesity and further research into the most effective interventions
MPs have urged the government to impose a 20% tax on sugary soft drinks and bring in legislation to crack down on the promotion in stores of all “unhealthy” food.
A report by the House of Commons health committee called for “brave and bold action” to tackle childhood obesity, with other regulatory measures suggested including a ban on all advertising of HFSS foods before the 9pm watershed.
The committee, whose report strongly echoed the findings of Public Health England’s sugar reduction strategy, also called for a new set of voluntary agreements with the industry, which it said should be backed up by the threat of regulatory action if progress were not made.
These include a centrally led reformulation programme to reduce sugar in food and drink, plans for single portions of sugar-added products to be labelled with a new ‘sugar in teaspoons’ system, and a co-ordinated programme of portion control in HFSS foods.
Despite its backing for measures including a sugar tax, the report said the committee, chaired by former GP and Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, did not want to “demonise” just sugar.
It also recognised the importance of the government boosting physical activity among children but claimed that the measures on cracking down on “unhealthy” food would be more effective.
The report quoted from one of its inquiry witnesses, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has been campaigning for a sugar tax.
“We believe that a full package of bold measures is required, and share Jamie Oliver’s view,” said the report. “Being gentle and polite is not the way to have a progressive obesity strategy. We need to be big, bold and brave.”
David Cameron has previously ruled out bringing in a sugar tax as he oversees a childhood obesity strategy due to be unveiled in the new year.