The Conservative Party has thrown its weight behind The Grocer's Weigh It Up! campaign - calling for an immediate review of the Food Standards Agency's controversial Nutrient Profiling Model.
Speaking exclusively to The Grocer, Tory shadow health minister for children Steve O'Brien said the party was already taking urgent steps towards its own review of the Nutrient Profiling Model.
It is convening a summit, planned for July this year, that will unite the FSA, food industry executives, health professionals, campaigners and lobby groups in a bid to thrash out a solution.
"The NPM is a crude and ludicrous approach and must be reviewed," said O'Brien. "This is something we would do in government and we hope things will change even before that time. The NPM is at the root of Ofcom's decision to suggest foods such as cheese and honey are bad for children and therefore cannot be advertised to them. It is a matter of national concern."
In a stinging attack against the government's handling of the obesity crisis, the Tories also accused the FSA of wasting valuable public money on its simplistic traffic-light labelling, and said it would demand it scrapped the scheme.
"The flawed 100g measure is also used as the basis for the FSA's crude traffic-light front-of-pack labelling system on which it has wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers' money advertising," said O'Brien. "None of these issues can be tackled until NPM is reviewed."
The Grocer's Weigh It Up! campaign has received support from across the Conservative party, including Jim Paice, shadow minister for agriculture and rural affairs; Dr Andrew Murrison, MP for Westbury and a Tory front bench health spokesman; and Andrew Lansley, shadow secretary of state for health.
The Tories have already voiced their concerns over the effectiveness of an advertising ban in tackling health issues, and believe the Nutrient Profiling Model, which governs which products can be advertised to children, is not only anomalous but places too much emphasis on the role HFSS (high fat salt sugar) foods play in childhood obesity.
In the party's Working Group on Responsible Business paper it discussed the need to "replace the current culture of blame" and take a more holistic approach to tackling obesity. "Parents need to take more responsibility for their children's diets and exercise regimes; government needs to take responsibility for the quality of school meals and physical activity; and individuals need to take responsibility for their diet, activity and general health."
The Tory strategy also promises to reward good behaviour by the industry rather than punishing bad behaviour.
Further moves to tackle the obesity crisis, including calls for more lottery funding to encourage sport and exercise among children, will also be discussed at the summit.
"There is a clear correlation between the worrying rise in obesity and the cut in funding for sport from lottery funds: from 25% in 1998 to 16% in 2006," said O'Brien. "Sport not only enhances social wellbeing, but is also a necessary part of a child's routine."
Weigh It Up! p28