Government uses prime-time TV to expose ‘hidden nasties’ in food

By Lorraine Mullaney

- Last updated on GMT

The Change4Life campaign aims to educate consumers about their food
The Change4Life campaign aims to educate consumers about their food
The government is using prime-time TV to raise awareness of the “hidden nasties” in everyday food.

ITV aired the first advert in the Change4Life​ campaign to educate consumers about the ingredients in everyday food during last night’s (January 7) episode of Coronation Street​.

In the graphic advertising, characters designed by Wallace and Gromit animators Aardman reveal that a bottle of cola contains 17 sugar cubes, while a large pizza contains more than a wine glass of fat.

The advertising slot will also feature ads from Asda, Quorn, Uncle Ben’s, the Co-Operative Food and Cravendale.

Department of Health (DoH) director of marketing, Sheila Mitchell, said: “This is first time ITV has teamed up with us for an ad takeover. We have worked closely with partner organisations including Asda fresh fish and Uncle Ben’s rice to highlight how easy it is to eat well on a budget.

Free meal mixer 

“The takeover closes with a reminder to sign up to Change4life to receive a free meal mixer.”

The free ‘Food smart meal mixer’ offers quick, easy, healthier recipes with enough combinations to eat a different daily menu every day for six years, according to the DoH.

Those that sign up to the campaign will also be offered free Cravendale milk and money off Quorn Best Ever Mince or Chicken style pieces, Schwartz spices and seasoning and Robinson’s Fruit Shoot My-5.

Public health minister Anna Soubry said: “Making healthier, balanced meals on a budget can be a challenge for families. Free healthy recipes and money off those much needed cupboard essentials encourage everyone to try healthy alternatives.

Highest rates of obesity in Europe

“Thanks to the continuing success of Change4Life, a million mums have changed their behaviour. But England has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe with over 60% of adults and a third of 10- and 11-year-olds overweight or obese.”

Obesity costs the NHS £5bn each year with 40,000 people dying of conditions attributable to being overweight or obese. And the latest figures show that the number of children who are overweight or obese doubles during primary school.

While recognising the need to combat the obesity epidemic, certain industry players have criticised the campaign for its use of the term ‘hidden nasties’.

Provision Trade Federation director general Clare Cheney told “It is necessary for people to be more aware of what they are eating in order for them to construct a healthy diet. Common sense dictates that this inevitably involves eating less of certain types of food, particularly those eaten in portion sizes with a high calorific value but few essential nutrients.

‘Hidden nasties’ is misleading

The term ‘hidden nasties’ is misleading because fat is only nasty if you eat too much of it in a badly balanced diet.” ​ 

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) welcomed the news but said the Change4Life campaign alone would not be enough.

BNF director general Professor Judy Buttriss told Government-led action that raises awareness is welcomed – it was an important element of the FSA’s salt campaign – and there are already signs from the Health Survey for England that childhood obesity has begun to plateau over the past couple of years, if not decline.

“But the Change4Life campaign is unlikely to be sufficient on its own – a concerted effort that features practical tips and solutions is needed from all parties, including GPs and health professionals, if we are to help people change the habits of a lifetime.”

A spokeswoman from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said: “The food and drink industry is committed to providing safe, nutritious and affordable food for consumers and has been working voluntarily to reduce salt, saturated fat and calories in products for many years.

​More recently, it has been an active participant in the government's Public Health Responsibility Deal. Through voluntary commitments, salt levels have reduced by 9% since 2006 and some manufacturers have introduced calorie caps in particular for snacks and soft drinks.

“FDF members play an important role in helping consumers gain a realistic understanding of the foods they eat and how they fit into a healthy diet. They do this by providing clear and accurate product information, including nutrition information, on pack and on company websites. This activity supports the Department of Health’s effort, via the Change4Life campaign, to get consumer to better understand the importance of balanced diets and physical exercise and to implement small changes that can make a difference.”

Meanwhile, the government has rejected Labour’s calls to introduce legal limits​ on fat, sugar and salt in children’s food.

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