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28th July 2020

Government’s new obesity plan receives mixed reaction

Written by: David Foad
The Department of Health and Social Care’s package of measures announced on July 27th to tackle obesity and promote better health drew mixed reactions from campaign and industry groups.

The Food Foundation, which runs the Children’s Right2Food Campaign, was positive.

Anna Taylor, the foundation’s executive director, said: “We are really pleased to see the wide-ranging set of measures in the obesity plan, including the 9pm watershed ban on HFSS (high fat, salt and sugar) food.

“This is a huge win for the Children’s Right2Food Campaign and we are delighted to see that all the Young Food Ambassadors’ hard work is paying off.

“The Government has taken a bold step towards a better future for our children. This decision puts the UK ahead of the rest of the world in efforts to support our children to eat well. Now, we must make sure these commitments become a reality as soon as possible.”

Industry trade body UKHospitality also welcomed the plans, though with reservations.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Hospitality shares the Government’s commitment to public health objectives, and the focus on public education and information is certainly a welcome strategy.

Britain’s eating out sector has made great strides in providing healthier lifestyle choice options on their menus, responding to consumer demands and nudging healthier behaviour, as evident in the rapid growth of catering for veganism, for example.

“Millions of Britons have rediscovered the joy of cooking from scratch during lockdown, a trend that has been rightly and roundly applauded. We should embrace this by embedding more nutritional education in schools.

“Cooking from scratch is what restaurants do every day, and it’s how many of them manage to keep their offers attractive.  However, menu labelling could cost as much as £40,000 per menu run for some businesses, dis-incentivising such innovative and sustainable approaches, and stifling the efforts to offer exciting and healthy meals to customers.

“A well-intentioned targeting of child obesity is at risk of evolving into an interventionist approach that heaps burdens on hospitality businesses just when they are at their most vulnerable and fighting for survival.”

And Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said: “The UK’s food and drink manufacturers and the half a million people we employ – so recently the heroes heralded by government for feeding the nation during the Covid crisis – will be reeling today from this punishing blow.

“As the economy struggles to recover, new restrictions on promoting and advertising everyday food and drink will increase the price of food, reduce consumer choice and threaten jobs across the UK. And all to save 17 calories a day.

“A new government focus on the promotion of physical activity is welcome, but this package looks like a terrible missed opportunity.

“After months in which people have thought more about diet and exercise, we could have embarked on a bold programme to promote healthier lifestyles and better diet choices – encouraging consumption of fibre, fruit and vegetables.

“Instead, at the heart of this programme are old and discredited policies that will raise prices, limit choice and hit two of the UK’s most successful industries.”