The government is planning to make a major announcement on how it is to tackle the rising rate of obesity in the UK, The Grocer has learned.

It is gearing up to respond to the Foresight report, which claimed 50% of the British population would be obese by 2050, within two to 10 weeks, according to a government source.

"We are having a lot of discussions about obesity and we are trying to look at it in an evidence-based way, but there is a political imperative to do something," said the source.

The Foresight report looked at 91 recommendations to help tackle obesity levels, of which only three were connected to the food industry - advertising, reformulation and health labelling. The government source said the implications for the food industry would be proportionate to the weighting given in the report.

This could allay fears that the government was planning to introduce harsher measures to regulate advertising imminently, after reports suggested it wanted a pre-9pm ban on all HFSS food advertising by December. The government would have the statutory powers to bring in a pre-watershed ban, but it would be virtually impossible to push through changes before the end of the year, said Fiona Carter, a legal expert on food regulation and partner at law firm Browne Jacobson.

However, the industry is still waiting to see how radical the government will be, after health secretary Alan Johnson claimed obesity posed a greater threat than climate change last month.

One industry insider said many were preparing for the worst, but felt the threat of a pre-9pm ban was based on rumour and supposition.

"It would certainly be a vote winner and would show that Brown was in control," he said "The food industry has become the scalp that must be had."

Which? called for a blanket ban on all food and drink advertising before the 9pm watershed this week. It claimed the top five programmes watched by under-10s over a two-week period in September were not covered by current HFSS food advertising restrictions.

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