>>The white paper is just the starting point for shaping the future

Given our Junk the Spin campaign, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I saw how the White Paper, Choosing Health, was launched amid so much hype and hyperbole that you would have been right to think that publication day was going to be known for ever more as Black Tuesday by the food and drink industry.
As always, however, there was more spin than substance behind the lurid headlines that appeared in our newspapers this week. Junk food TV ads to be banned? Er, not quite. Instead, the food industry is being challenged on a number of fronts - notably reducing promotional activity aimed at kids and labelling of food products (don’t say we didn’t warn you about traffic light labels!). What’s bizarre, is that after all those months spent bashing the food and drink industry, health secretary John Reid has produced a document that’s short on detail when it comes to targets and measuring success.
Still, we should be happy that his general tone is far more conciliatory than we had expected - and we are delighted to see the government naming and praising the industry in the areas where it has taken a lead. One of the central messages of the campaign we have been running was that industry should be seen as part of the solution - perhaps Reid and his advisers have woken up to that fact? Or was it more to do with the fact that they realised many of their threats on issues such as labelling were in fact empty - given current EU rules - which means progress can only be made with your support.
Whatever the reason for the new Labour language, you all have a chance to play an active part in shaping the debate on issues such as labelling and advertising. But the work starts now. None of you should be sitting back and waiting to see what the Department of Health comes up with in its Food and Health Action Plan next year. The time for apathy is long gone.
And if you want proof of what can be achieved when an industry truly works together, turn to p37 of the White Paper. That’s about the only place where you will find any reference to the alcoholic drinks industry. It has done such a good job on the sensible drinking issue that the government is leaving it and the Portman Group to get on with the work they have already initiated. Wouldn’t it be great if the food industry could achieve the same response from government?
your work starts now