Liz Truss urged NOT to raft of obesity-fighting measures

Charities urge Liz Truss NOT to ditch sugar tax and raft of obesity-fighting measures: Coalition of experts warn PM’s plan to stamp out ‘nanny statism’ would be ‘scandalous’

  • 70 health experts and charities have urged truss not to ‘kowtow’ to food industry
  • Plea follows a Treasury review of  anti-obesity policies to help with cost-of-living
  • Ban multibuy deals, a junk food ad watershed, and the sugar tax face being axed

Prime minister Liz Truss (pictured here in New York during a visit to the UN) has been urged to not ditch planned anti-obesity polices

Liz Truss was today urged not to scrap a raft of anti-obesity policies by the UK’s top health experts.

The new Prime Minister has ordered a review of ‘nanny state’ measures currently in place, as well as policies set to be brought in next month.

It means bans on unhealthy food being displayed at shop checkouts or sold as part of multi-buy deals could be reversed. 

The sugar tax — which charges soft drink makers if their drinks are too sugar-laden — is also under threat.  

A coalition of 70 health organisations have today wrote to Ms Truss, expressing their ‘profound concern’ about the rumoured reversals.

The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) alliance includes the British Medical Association, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK among its signatories. 

They urged Ms Truss to ‘reconsider any plans to weaken the public health measures’ to tackle junk food, adding it would be ‘absolutely scandalous’ to do so. 

Signatories added that cutting the preventable illness caused by junk food is crucial in meeting Government targets to halve rates of childhood obesity by 2030.

The Treasury has ordered a review of measures already in force and those set to be brought in next month that aim to deter Britons from eating junk food

Government data shows record numbers of youngsters are obese or morbidly overweight by the time they start Reception or leave primary school after an ‘unprecedented’ rise in childhood obesity during the pandemic

More than 42million adults in the UK will be overweight or obese by 2040, according to projections by Cancer Research UK

WHAT MEASURES FACE THE CHOPPING BLOCK? 

Bans on TV and online junk food ads

Proposals set out that food high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned on TV and online before 9pm.

Ministers believe the pre-watershed ban will mean less children see and are tempted to buy the unhealthy food.

Research suggests that around half of all TV food ads are for unhealthy food, rising to 60 per cent after 6pm. 

Evidence shows seeing unhealthy food in adverts and affect short and long-term eating habits.

And the Government was even considering whether to ban online junk food adverts round-the-clock.

Ending BOGOF deals

Junk food will be banned from buy-one-get-one-free deals under Boris Johnson’s plans.

Data shows the UK spends more buying food products on promotion than any other European country. 

Ban on displaying junk food in prominent locations

Food high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from prominent locations in stores.

These include high-footfall areas, such as checkouts and entrances.

More than 40 per cent of food and drink in prominent store locations is unhealthy, analysis from 2018 shows. 

Ministers hope shops will instead promote healthier choices and offer more discount on fruit and veg.

Calories on menus

From April, restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 staff have had to show calories on their menus.

Eating out has become more comment in recent years, with 75 per cent of Britons going to a restaurant, fast food chain or takeaway restaurant ever week.

This is causing Britons to unwittingly consume around 200 more calories per day on the days they eat out, compared to if they cooked at home. 

Ministers said calories on menus would help people make healthier choices.

Sugar Tax

The tax, in place since 2018, charges soft drink manufacturers 18p per litre if their drinks are too sugary. 

A review found that it put Britons off buying as many soft drinks, with sales falling 10 per cent.

Nearly one in six reception age children in England are obese, with this rising to over a quarter of 10-to-11-year-olds, according to the latest data. Even more are classified as overweight. 

Most of the Government’s anti-obesity polices were originally touted by ex-PM Boris Johnson.

He announced the latest package of measures in July 2020, following his battle with Covid, which saw him hospitalised for a week.

Mr Johnson, previously a nanny-state sceptic, admitted that he was ‘way overweight’ when struck with the virus.

Under his administration, Britons were urged to slim down to beat Covid and protect the NHS — with dozens of studies showing the overweight had higher risks of severe illness, hospitalisation, ICU admission and death.

One policy, implemented in April, set out that restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 staff would have to include calories on menus.

Food high in fat, sugar and salt, was set to be excluded from TV and online adverts before 9pm and buy-one-get-one-free deals. Free refills for soft drinks were also due to be ditched.

But in May, Mr Johnson announced that the measures — which would have affected hundreds of products including pizzas, ready meals, sweets and cakes — were being pushed back from October 2022 to 2023 and 2024 due to the cost-of-living crisis.

A ban on displaying junk food in prominent store locations, such as the end of aisles and checkouts, was still expected to be enforced from next month. 

But its future is now in question. 

Even the sugar tax, which has been in place since 2018 and charges manufacturers 18p per litre if their drinks are too sugary, may be scrapped. 

This is despite one review finding it put Britons off buying as many soft drinks, with sales falling 10 per cent.

As Mr Johnson’s successor, Ms Truss has publicly stated being against the rules.

In an interview with the Daily Mail in August, she said: ‘Those taxes are over. 

‘Talking about whether or not somebody should buy a two-for-one offer? No. There is definitely enough of that.’

While the measures are reportedly being scrapped due to the cost-of-living crisis at least one, the multi-buy ban, was found to save people money.

A Whitehall assessment of the ban found outlawing the promotions would actually save the public £14 a year.

The report, published in 2020, claimed the multibuy promotions actually encourage households to spend an extra £75 each year. 

This was offset by £61 of savings from the buy-one-get-one-free discounts. 

Some surveys have also found the public support the policies.    

A Cancer Research UK survey earlier this this month revealed 60 per cent of people didn’t support delaying junk food restrictions.

The charity recently estimated that more than 21million UK adults would be obese by 2040 – a rise of 6million on current figures — unless urgent action is taken.

Dr David Strain, chairman of the BMA’s Board of Science, said it was ‘deeply disappointing’ the Government was threatening to ‘throw away’ the progress made on tackling obesity, without any evidence it would alleviate cost-of-living pressures. 

‘This sort of short-term thinking threatens not only the Government’s target to halve childhood obesity by 2030 but the NHS itself, as obesity-related preventable illnesses mount up in the absence of any discernible strategy to prevent them,’ he said.  

Professor Graham MacGregor, an expert in cardiovascular medicine and chairman of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, said it would be ‘scandalous’ for Government to not only scrap upcoming polices but also ditch existing ones.

‘Unhealthy diets high in saturated fat, salt and sugar are the biggest cause of death and disability globally,’ he said. 

‘The Government must not kowtow to the food industry, and put the UK’s health first.’

Katharine Jenner, OHA director, said the nation would miss out on £37billion in savings for the NHS and £202billion for wider society if the 2030 target to halve childhood obesity was scrapped. 

‘We strongly urge the Prime Minister to reconsider any plans that would undoubtedly jeopardise these crucial public health measures.’

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