Last spring, the Health Select Committee called on the government to set clear goals to reduce childhood obesity.
It claimed vague statements about looking “to further levers” if the current plan did not work “were not adequate to the seriousness and urgency of this major public health challenge”.
In its response, published last month, the government acknowledged that childhood obesity was “one of the top public health challenges for this generation”.
Tackling childhood obesity
The government claimed that its plan marked an important step forward in tackling childhood obesity – but added that it wasn’t the final word.
It pointed to the launch of the calorie reduction programme in August 2017, along with a £5M investment in a Policy Research Unit on obesity.
Up for particular scrutiny by the Select Committee was the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which it urged to be extended to milk-based drinks.
It also recommended that effectiveness of the levy should include monitoring of whether the levy was being passed on to include a price differential between high-and low- or no-sugar drinks at the point of sale.
Effectiveness of the levy
Failure to do so, “would leave consumers of sugar-free products subsidising higher sugar drinks”, it argued.
The government said soft drinks prices were a matter for producers and retailers, and were driven by a “complex range of commercial and economic factors”.
However, it added that the Office for Budget Responsibility expected that where producers chose not to reformulate their drinks, the levy “will be passed on directly to consumer prices in the taxed products”.
It also claimed the Treasury would review the exclusion for milk drinks in 2020 when Public Health England (PHE) publishes its final report on how well the industry has done in meeting the 20% sugar reduction target.
PHE will also produce an interim report on industry’s progress in achieving this target later this year.