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Fast Food next in obsity battle

Health chiefs will set their sights on pizzas, burgers and sandwiches in an effort to shrink children’s waistlines.

A year after the launch of the government’s childhood obesity strategy, Public Health England (PHE) said that it would begin tackling excess calories in the foods children consume most.

PHE was criticised by experts, however, who said that the government had not gone far enough and needed to “try harder” to address the problem. They argued for action against food marketing that targets children.

So far efforts have focused on a sugar reduction programme, with an ambition to remove 20 per cent of the sugar from children’s most-consumed foods by 2020. It includes the soft drinks industry levy, coming into effect in April, which charges drinks manufacturers whose products contain more than 5 per cent sugar.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: “A third of children leave primary school overweight or obese and an excess of calories — not just excess sugar consumption — is the root cause of this. We will work with the food companies and retailers to tackle this.”

The strategy will involve PHE considering the evidence on children’s calorie consumption, publishing its findings in early 2018, before setting guidance and a timeframe for the industry to reduce excess calories in foods such as ready meals, pizzas and burgers.

In 2015-16, more than 600 children and young people aged under 25 were treated for type 2 diabetes, linked to being overweight.
When first announced, the childhood obesity strategy came under fire for failing to adopt key requests from campaigners. A leaked draft revealed that the government had dropped a target to halve childhood obesity in ten years along with more stringent incentives to make the food industry act.

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “Let’s be straight about Theresa May’s abysmal action plan to tackle obesity. If it’s as world-leading as she would have you believe, you might have expected some figures to show that it’s already having some effect. In fact, it has next to nothing to show for its last twelve months of work and that is a serious disappointment.”
Caroline Cerny, who leads the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 health charities, medical colleges and campaign groups, said: “We can’t ignore the fact that the food industry continues to get away with bombarding children with adverts that we know encourage unhealthy food choices. Failing to tackle this area is significantly undermining the impact of the childhood obesity plan.”

Source: - 18 August 2017