More regulation may be needed after the sugar tax

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

More than 20% of children are overweight or obese when they start school
More than 20% of children are overweight or obese when they start school

Related tags Nutrition

More sugar regulation might be necessary after the introduction of the sugar levy in April 2018, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has claimed, after research showed that more than one-in-five children started school overweight or obese.

There had been “minimal improvement”​ to childhood obesity over the past 10 years, RCPCH revealed in its State of Child Health Report 2017​. The report recommended that the effectiveness of the sugar tax be evaluated after its introduction.

The report said: ​[There is a] need for continued efforts by government and partners to reduce childhood obesity, starting with maternal health and wellbeing and continuing once children are born and grow into adulthood​.

‘A positive start’

“The sugar levy ​[on soft drinks] to be introduced across the UK is a positive start. However, robust monitoring and evaluation will be necessary to determine their impact and whether more regulation is required.”

Regulation should also be strengthened if voluntary action – on the reduction of other high saturated fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods – by manufacturers do not achieve their targets, the report said. Other recommendations included a ban on broadcasting adverts for HFSS foods before 9pm, and introducing a national programme to measure children after birth, before school and in adolescence.

RCPCH president Neena Modi said: “The health of infants, children and young people in the UK has improved dramatically over the last 30 years. Many will lead happy and healthy lives, but the future health and happiness of a significant and growing number is in jeopardy.

‘Reducing their lifespan’

“Around 80% of overweight and obese children will become overweight and obese adults, reducing their lifespan and imposing an enormous burden upon our health and care services from the ravages of chronic, non-communicable disease.”

In a separate report, published last month, it was claimed that the soft drinks levy was not enough to solve​ Britain’s obesity crisis alone. Manufacturers would need to increase their product prices for obesity to be reduced in children, it suggested.

Meanwhile, last month’s sugar tax draft was slammed​ by law firm DWF. It claimed the levy would be “complex”​ and raised “serious questions”​.

Report’s recommendations for improving childhood obesity:

  • Commission independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the sugar levy.
  • Outline plans for a regulatory framework that will be enforced if voluntary work on the reduction of high levels of saturated fat, sugar and salt in foods (HFSS) do not achieve the targets set
  • Ban advertising of HFSS foods in all broadcast media before 9pm
  • Expand national programmes to measure children after birth, before school and in adolescence.
  • Ensure children who are overweight or obese can access services to help them lose weight
  • Help all healthcare professionals make every contact count by having potentially difficult conversations with their patients

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