In a much-anticipated move, Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will reveal the plans in a speech yesterday (January 15), as part of wider measures to improve health and ensure the National Health Service (NHS) “remains affordable and sustainable” in the century of the ageing society.
It remained unclear what precise levels would be set on the maximum content of fat, sugar and salt or whether, as some predict, a 9pm watershed would be set on the TV advertising of such foods.
Limits were justified to protect children because they do not make all their own choices, the shadow minister will argue. And parents needed support to help them make the best decisions for their children.
Introduce traffic light labelling
Labour also planned to improve food labelling, curb consumption of high-strength, low-cost alcohol and encourage a new smoke-free generation. Labelling plans included working at EU level to introduce traffic light labelling of packaging food, in a bid to help consumers make healthy food and drink choices. The moves were designed to help people take more responsibility for their own health.
Action was needed to curb low-cost alcohol, which fuels binge drinking, Labour said. A range of options, including restrictions on prices and bottle-sizes, were under consideration.
The plans were intended to give new momentum to the public health debate, which had “stalled” under the David Cameron’s Conservative government, Labour claimed.
Burnham will unveil the plans during a speech at the cross party think-tank Demos. Launching a new approach to public health, he will say society should do more to give every child a healthier start in life. “But rather than a ‘finger-wagging’ approach, Labour will instead empower adults with information to make healthier choices and support to get active”.
‘Protect children from commercial pressures’
Labour billed the plans as: “tougher action to protect children from commercial pressures and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke”.
Action on public health was necessary not only to improve public health, including curbing the UK’s obesity epidemic, but also to ensure the NHS remains sustainable for the long term, it was said.
Unless the seemingly inexorable rises in obesity and diabetes were halted, the cost to the NHS will rise from £10bn to £17bn a year by 2035, the party warned.
Burnham will tell the Demos meeting: “In a century of rising demand, helping people take more responsibility for their own health will be essential if we are to ensure the NHS remains affordable and sustainable for the future.
“As part of this, children will need better protection from the pressures of modern living and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke and Labour will not flinch from taking the action needed to provide it.
“David Cameron and his government are too close to powerful vested interests to stand up for our children.”
Labour’s shadow minister for public health Luciana Berger will say: “We are setting our clear intention to take robust action to protect children from harm where voluntary measures have failed including regulating to limit the amount of sugar, fat salt in food marketed substantially to children, introducing standardised packaging of tobacco that this government has failed to achieve, and cracking down on the high-strength, low-cost alcohol products that fuel binge drinking and do most harm to health.”
Shadow food and farming minister Huw Irranca-Davies promised last week to put food policy at the heart of the next Labour government in a video interview with FoodManufacture.co.uk.
Labour’s ‘kick-start’ to public health policy
- Maximum limits on the levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketing targeted at children
- Placing the promotion of physical activity at the centre of public health policy with new, easily-understandable recommended levels of physical activity
- Improve food labelling, including working at EU level to introduce traffic light labelling of packaging food,
- Targeted action on high-strength, low-cost alcohol which fuels binge drinking
- Standardised cigarette packaging to be introduced to halt the industry’s sophisticated methods of recruiting new, young smokers