Call for robust action to tackle obesity amid reports strategy to be published


Health campaigners have called on the Government to take bold action to tackle the nation's obesity epidemic as reports suggest its much-anticipated obesity strategy could be published imminently.

While health officials have not confirmed the move, The Sun has reported that the document will be published tomorrow.

Central to the strategy will be the Government's sugar tax on soft drinks. The proposed levy on drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Red Bull will come into force from 2018.

Drinks with 5g of sugar per 100ml will face a lower rate of tax while those with more than 8g per 100ml will face a higher rate.

The Obesity Health Alliance - which is made up of key organisations including Diabetes UK, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and the British Medical Association - has previously set out a series of measures which it believes could help curb the obesity problem. These include:

:: A ban on advertisements before the 9pm watershed for food and drink products that are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.

:: The introduction of ambitious targets to reduce sugar, saturated fat and salt from food, with meaningful sanctions for food companies who do not meet these targets.

:: Retailers should be set targets to reduce the display of unhealthy foods in areas such as checkouts and end-of-aisle displays.

:: Ensuring people have easy-to-understand nutritional information on the products they are buying.

Meanwhile, local councils - which are in charge of public health in their areas - have also set out a series of proposals.

The Local Government Association has called for: calorie counts on menus, greater provision of tap water in schools and restaurants and for councils to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.

Commenting on the report that the obesity strategy could be published imminently, shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said: "Britain has sleepwalked into a public health crisis. The fight against childhood obesity is amongst the most pressing priorities for our NHS and urgent action has been demanded of the Government, not weak words to placate international food corporations.

"To do this, we must prioritise the health of our children over food industry lobbyists.

"The Government's strategy should be robust and should address education, advertising and tax."

Caroline Moye, head of the World Cancer Research Fund, said: "One in three children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, putting them at risk of developing serious health conditions in later life.

"For example, being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing 11 common cancers including breast, prostate and bowel. In fact, about 25,000 cancer cases could be prevented every year in the UK if everyone was a healthy weight.

"It is vital that Theresa May and her government release a robust childhood obesity strategy. No single measure will tackle the spiralling obesity trend our country is facing today and the strategy must include a number of different policies such as a levy on sugary drinks and more restrictions on advertising. This new government has the opportunity to show real leadership in reversing what is today's major health epidemic".

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said he hoped the report would not be a "limp repetition of the flawed Responsibility Deal".

He added: "The Government's own senior health advisers have called obesity a national risk requiring a Cobra-style crisis management response. Apart from the Government appearing to be resolute about a sugar levy, its intentions are light years away from what is needed."