A new obesity plan that excludes restrictions on junk food marketing and advertising will not deliver the necessary impact on public health, experts have warned.
In an open letter to Boris Johnson signed by 49 health charities, researchers and academics, the prime minister was urged to implement a ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed alongside other commitments set out in previous obesity plans.
The letter was coordinated by Action on Sugar and Salt which has produced a traffic light coloured scorecard analysing progress against commitments made in three previous iterations of the government’s childhood obesity plan. While certain commitments, such as the soft drinks industry levy, have been delivered many have not progressed beyond the consultation stage including mandatory calorie labelling for the out of home sector.
The letter follows news the government is planning a new war on obesity personally driven by the prime minister who reportedly attributed his brush with death due to Covid-19 to his weight.
In the letter, the experts wrote: “While there is an element of personal responsibility in both the treatment and prevention of obesity, dental decay and other diet-related diseases, this can only be achieved if the environment enables healthier choices and if everyone in society has equitable access to healthy, affordable food.”
They called for a plan to include restrictions on junk food marketing and advertising across all media platforms - including live TV, TV on demand, radio, online, social media, apps, in-game, cinema, and digital outdoor advertising such as billboards.
“This is the government’s golden opportunity to fully implement an obesity plan here in the UK – four years after chapter one was officially published,” said Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine and chair of Action on Sugar and Salt. “Since then, we’ve seen far more lengthy consultation processes rather than direct action which now must change. If we can address obesity and care for the health of our population, we will become more resistant to life threatening diseases like Covid-19 in the future.”