Chief medical officer considers taxing all unhealthy food

England’s chief medical officer is considering taxing all unhealthy food products to discourage parents from buying them in a bid to tackle childhood obesity.

Professor Dame Sally Davies will review what more can be done to meet the Government’s ambition of halving obesity in youngsters by 2030, with one in three children leaving primary school overweight or obese.

The Government’s sugar tax on soft drinks has already been hailed as a success in reducing the amount of sugar consumed by children.

“I want parents to be incentivised to buy healthy food,” Dame Sally told BBC News.

“We need to make sure that fresh fruit and vegetables are cheap. Maybe we have to subsidise them by charging more, by taxing unhealthy food.

“Parents are then nudged to buy the healthy version because it’s cheaper. I want the basket of food parents buy not to cost any more.”

The number of children classed as seriously obese is at a record high, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has commissioned a report by Dame Sally – due in September – to urgently review approaches taken internationally, regionally and across the country.

The report will make a series of recommendations for the Government.

Experts from different sectors met Dame Sally at a round-table event on Thursday to discuss initiatives and solutions to tackle the problem.

Mr Hancock said: “We have already gone further than any other country to reduce childhood obesity.

“Our reformulation programmes are world-leading.

“Children up and down the country are running a mile a day thanks to our work with primary schools and we are consulting on a number of new laws on advertising and promotions to make the environment healthier for our children.

“I have no doubt that these policies will be effective.”

He added: “What I do not underestimate is the scale of the problem we face and we should not rest on our laurels.

“By 2030, if we want to see a real improvement to our children’s health, we are going to have to use every tool in our arsenal, so today I have asked the chief medical officer to report back on what else we can take forward.”