Junk food curbs CAN turn the tide on obesity, experts say

Junk food curbs CAN turn the tide on obesity, experts say

September 28, 2021

Junk food curbs CAN turn the tide on obesity: Tackling stigma and tightening rules around food sales could boost efforts to make Britons healthier, experts say

  • Government could become the first in the world to reverse the trend in obesity
  • Its ten-year strategy demands harsher curbs on the marketing of junk food
  • It says ministers must address ‘weight bias and stigma’ experienced by people 

Britain can ‘turn the tide’ on rising obesity by tackling stigma and tightening rules around food sales, according to a group of charities and experts.

The Government could become the first in the world to reverse the trend in weight gain if it takes tough action, the Obesity Health Alliance claims.

Its ten-year strategy, published today, demands harsher curbs on the marketing of junk food and much stronger promotion of healthier alternatives. 

It says ministers must address the ‘weight bias and stigma’ experienced by obese people and ‘reframe’ obesity as an issue of ‘collective, rather than personal responsibility’. 

Today, 68 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women are overweight, with 27 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively, obese

The report argues people are exposed to an ‘obesogenic environment’ from birth – ‘one in which calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food is accessible, abundant, affordable and normalised and where physical activity opportunities are not built into everyday life’. 

The alliance, which includes the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and royal medical colleges, said successive governments have failed to tackle the problem. 

In 2014/15 the NHS spent £6.1billion on treating obesity-related ill health and this is forecast to rise to £9.7billion per year by 2050.

Today, 68 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women are overweight, with 27 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively, obese.

Professor Dame Anne Johnson, chairman of the expert working group advising the alliance, said: ‘If the Government commits to bold new policies, we can turn the tide, reducing obesity and greatly improving our nation’s health.’ The alliance supported Government plans to introduce a 9pm watershed on TV and a ban on paid-for advertising online for unhealthy food and drink.

It also recommended policies that cut access to unhealthy items, including licensing retailers or curbing hours when products can be sold.

The alliance, which includes the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and royal medical colleges, said successive governments have failed to tackle the problem

Other suggestions included mandatory front-of-pack nutrient labelling. Separately, it said greater clarity should be given on the legal responsibility of employers not to discriminate against staff based on weight. 

Professor Linda Bauld, project academic lead, said: ‘Turning the tide on obesity is achievable. Over the same three decades in which obesity has continued to rise, UK smoking rates have been halved – achieved through a series of comprehensive government strategies.’

A Health Department spokesman said: ‘The new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities is launching next month which will spearhead national efforts to tackle obesity, improve mental health and promote physical activity.’

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