Food and drink industry ‘delaying’ UK obesity plans

By James Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Not so sweet: lobbying by food and drink firms had delayed UK obesity strategy, claimed the AoS
Not so sweet: lobbying by food and drink firms had delayed UK obesity strategy, claimed the AoS

Related tags: Obesity

Food and drink manufacturers have “delayed and eroded” government plans to tackle obesity, claimed the lobby group Action on Sugar (AoS), after the publication of a new report by the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA).

The report – published today (June 20) – predicted that by 2035, more than 7.6M new cases of disease linked to people being overweight or obese could be diagnosed in the UK.

This number included an additional 4.62M cases of type 2 diabetes, 1.63M cases of coronary heart disease and 670,000 new cases of cancer.

Director of policy and global health at the UK Health Forum and OHA member Modi Mwatsama said: “This study is a wakeup call for the government and shows a daunting future if no strong action is taken against the obesity epidemic.

“We can’t expect industry to make changes on their own and people need help making healthier choices. Companies will have to be held accountable by government.

‘Disease and early death’

“Without government action, our children face a life of disease and early death.”

The growing prevalence of obesity was expected to cost the National Health Service billions of pounds.

AoS claimed lobbying from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and the British Soft Drinks Association had delayed the government’s obesity strategy. It also claimed that more should be done by food and drink manufacturers to tackle obesity.

According to AoS, proposed plans for manufacturers to voluntarily reduce sugar in products by 20% would only reduce the population’s calorie intake by 20 calories per person per day.

AoS claimed that sugar in food and drink would need to be reduced by 50% in order to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The group predicted that Prime Minister David Cameron’s long-awaited obesity strategy was doomed to fail.

‘A tragedy for the UK’

AoS chairman Graham MacGregor said: “From what we​ [AoS] are hearing, his plan will have little effect on childhood or adult obesity and type 2 diabetes ­– a tragedy for the UK.”

The FDF denied it was delaying the UK obesity strategy and director general Ian Wright said: “The food and drink industry has been working in partnership with government for several years to ensure we play our part in tackling obesity.

“As the government finalises its childhood obesity strategy, we have been making a clear case in support of a range of policy interventions that can have the maximum impact in the shortest time.

“We’re committed to doing more and expect to see reformulation and portion control, considered by leading experts to be the most effective tools to tackle obesity, in the government’s forthcoming strategy.”

Commenting on AoS’s call for “severe restrictions” ​on marketing, Wright claimed that the food and drink industry was already putting such measures in place.

“Britain’s food and drink brands support the tightening of current advertising code which would ensure that ads for HFSS ​[high fat, salt and sugar] foods and drinks are not targeted at under-16s in any medium, including online.

“This voluntary action brings online restrictions into line with those already around children’s TV programmes.”


Obesity Health Alliance – Obesity Report

  • 7.6M cases of disease related to obesity by 2035
  • 4.62M cases of type 2 diabetes
  • 1.63M cases of coronary heart disease
  • 670,000 new cases of cancer

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