Childhood obesity

How do we tackle the child obesity crisis?

The Health Select Committee has called for tighter plans on the advertising and sale of unhealthy snacks and junk food. As reported in the Telegraph, despite the Government setting out it’s Childhood Obesity Plan, they are still to tackle the sale of discounted junk food and the advertising of unhealthy snacks before 9pm.

The committee have also recommended fines for companies that are unwilling to reduce sugar content, clearer labels and local authorities to hold more power to limit fast-food outlets in their area.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, the Chair of the Health Select Committee has said that they “are extremely disappointed that the Government has rejected some of their recommendations. The omissions mean that the current plan misses important opportunities to tackle childhood obesity. Vague statements about seeing how the current plan turns out are inadequate to the seriousness and urgency of this major public health challenge.

“The Government must set clear goals for reducing overall levels of childhood obesity, as well as goals for reducing the unacceptable and widening levels of inequality.”

Record numbers of children are now tackling weight problems with one third being overweight by the time they are 11. Research has suggested that problems such as this in childhood can lead to problems such as Type 2 Diabetes in later life.

Within the Childhood Obesity Plan, and with help from Jamie Oliver, from 2018 a sugar tax will be introduced on drinks which have more than 5g of sugar per 100ml. Food companies have also signed a voluntary agreement to reduce their sugar content by 2020, however as of yet there are no fines if they fail to do so.

Although MPs supported this announcement, they did request the monitoring of prices as they felt drinks companies should not pass on the tax by raising prices, and warned they may attempt to raise other prices such as water to make a gain from the unsuspecting consumer.

They also requested that sweetened milk products were added, as at the moment they stand exempt.

Professor Russell Viner, the Officer for Health Promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said “it was an error for Government to exclude TV junk food advertising restrictions in their Obesity Plan.” These adverts are known to influence children and industry experts, parents and the committee all agreed that a ban before the watershed would hugely help to tackle the crisis.

The Government have defended their plans by stating that they were implementing “the most ambitious plan on childhood obesity in the world”, and that if no results were seen, they wouldn’t rule out further measures.

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