Childhood obesity strategy to be unveiled on Thursday

The government's much-delayed childhood obesity strategy will be published on Thursday, officials have said.

The government's much-delayed childhood obesity strategy will be published on Thursday, officials have said.

The strategy was originally expected in December, but was put back to the spring and then the summer.

Officials have now confirmed the document will be published on Thursday.

Junk food

Reports suggest curbs on junk food advertising will not form part of the document, despite calls from major health organisations.

The Obesity Health Alliance – which is made up of key organisations including the RCN, Diabetes UK, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and the British Medical Association – previously set out a series of measures which it believes could help curb the obesity epidemic, including a ban on advertisements, before the 9pm watershed, for food and drink products that are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.

Other proposals put forward by the alliance include:

  • 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.

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.

Sugar tax

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 more than 5g of sugar per 100ml will face a lower rate of tax, while those in a second band of more than 8g per 100ml will face a higher rate.

Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said: 'We need to act quickly and decisively; while we welcome the government finally unveiling the obesity strategy, we have waited for too long for meaningful action.

'Britain has sleepwalked into a public health crisis. The fight against childhood obesity is among the most pressing priorities for our NHS and urgent action has been demanded of the government, not weak words to placate international food corporations.

'Need tough action'

'To do this, we must prioritise the health of our children over food industry lobbyists. The problem is ingrained and will need tough action.'

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 said: '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.'