Reformed childhood obesity plan on its way

Whitehall officials are reportedly thrashing out new rules to limit junk food marketing. Ministers are also mulling over whether to force restaurants to label unhealthy food, according to a report in the Times.

The changes are thought to be under consideration as part of a review of the childhood obesity strategy.

Last month, rumours started to emerge that the prime minister Theresa May is revisiting the strategy she published in August 2016. At the Food Standards Scotland conference in Edinburgh on March 28th, Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, confirmed that talks are underway, according to an article on the Foodnavigator.com website.

Ministers have long maintained the original strategy represented “the start of the conversation rather than the final word”.

Health campaigners said the plan was unambitious. A failure to introduce stricter laws for marketing of unhealthy products was a particular flaw, they said.

Indeed, PHE, in its advice to the government on sugar in 2015, called for a significant reduction in opportunities to market and advertise sugary food and drinks across all media. Price promotions should also be rebalanced in favour of healthier products, the experts said.

Dr Tedstone said she wanted “hard things to achieve” in any refreshed strategy. The Times, quoting sources in the culture department, reported that there could be “radical change” to television advertising given that the secretary of state Matt Hancock now supported a 9pm watershed on advertising junk food.

The article reads: “Ministers are looking at whether it is possible to identify users on social media by age and ban targeted advertising accordingly. The government also has an eye on what it calls ‘out of home’ and mandatory labelling, which could change the rules on restaurant menus.”

The foodservice sector, to date, has been supportive of the childhood obesity plan, with its emphasis on industry-led, voluntary commitments and targets.

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