“We would like the Responsibility Deal to continue, but the government has basically decided to park it,” Wright told a seminar at the Food Matters Live event in London last month. “The government has not said that yet but all the evidence suggests that it has.”
Speaking ahead of publication of the government’s long-awaited childhood obesity strategy, Wright said a new approach was needed to solve the crisis.
“It would have been quite good if the National Health Service and the public health authorities and the government generally had been doing more about this [obesity] over the past 15 years. I know they have been trying but the solutions have not worked,” remarked Wright.
Billions of calories eliminated
During that time, billions of calories had been taken out of the UK diet, transfats had been largely eliminated and there had been “a complete transformation of the landscape on salt”.
But more needed to be accomplished quickly, he added.
“Some of those measures could be replicated in the programme the government could come forward with in the next few weeks,” said Wright.
He called for the government to lead a new “scaled up” response to the challenge of obesity.
The new approach should include education in schools, adult education, sports activities, access to open spaces, doctors, dieticians, behavioural specialists, marketing experts, broadcasters and voluntary commitments from manufacturers.
“It’s got to involve some form of behavioural change and a real national conversation,” he said. Food and drink manufacturers were willing to play their part in that conversation, he added.
‘Don’t need new solutions’
But the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association Ufi Ibrahim disputed that new solutions were needed to tackle obesity. Her members had spent millions of pounds in supporting the Responsibility Deal and wanted to see that money pay dividends, she said.
“I don’t agree we need new solutions [to the problem of obesity] yet again. Because investments have been made and what we should be doing is working with these investments and getting a return on them,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dr Gina Radford, deputy chief medical officer, acknowledged the publication of the long-awaited childhood obesity strategy “was taking longer than everybody thought it would take” due to the complexity of the challenges involved.
“We are looking at a lot of evidence and a lot of discussion about what are the most appropriate things we should be doing as a government to deal with obesity,” Radford told delegates at the seminar on diet and health.