'No discussion' over UK obesity plans

Junk food Image copyright wildpixel
Image caption Food Standards Scotland want curbs on the promotion and marketing of junk food

Scotland's national food body has attacked measures announced by UK ministers to curb childhood obesity in England.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said it was disappointed there had been no discussion to develop a "UK-wide approach" to tackling the issue.

Measures announced by ministers in England include a voluntary target to cut sugar in children's food and drink.

The FSS has called for action to tackle promotions and marketing of junk food.

Poor diet is one of the most significant causes of ill-health in Scotland and contributes to the country having one of the highest obesity rates in Europe.

The FSS published proposals in January saying that the food industry should be given 12 months to come up with alternative ways of reducing sugar consumption or face the prospect of a "sugar tax".

They also concluded that radical change was needed to address Scottish eating habits and that curbs were needed on the promotion and advertising of certain foods, and portion size.

'Clear benefits'

Chairman of the FSS Ross Finnie said: "It is vitally important that we give children the best possible chance in life.

"Unless we take action now, we risk condemning our children to the same habits and poor diets that have led to current obesity levels of 30%, and on this current trajectory, projections that 40% of the population in Scotland will be obese by 2030."

He added: "It is disappointing that, despite the clear benefits that could be achieved with a UK-wide approach to tackling obesity through advertising and marketing, there was no discussion with Scotland before the UK government decided not to pursue this option."

David Thomson, chief executive of the Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF), said: "There are significant elements of UK Government's Childhood Obesity plan which present a major challenge to food and drink companies.

"It's right that reformulation and portion control are a major focus of the plan and this is where industry is focussing its efforts to make a difference. We will, as an industry, continue to work in partnership with FSS and Scottish Government to deliver effective actions to tackle obesity."

The UK government's Childhood Obesity Strategy has also been criticised by the British Medical Association, which said ministers had "rowed back" on promises, and the CEO of Sainsbury's said the plan did not go far enough.

The strategy asks the food and drink industry to cut 5% of the sugar in products popular with children over the next year.

It says the ultimate target is a 20% sugar cut, with Public Health England monitoring voluntary progress over the next four years.

However, new curbs on price promotions of unhealthy food and TV marketing were absent from the strategy.

Image copyright SPL
Image caption The UK government asks the industry to cut 5% of the sugar from products popular with children

A spokeswoman for Westminster's Department of Health said: "The childhood obesity crisis has been decades in the making and it will take years to sort it. We will measure progress carefully and are not ruling out further action if results are not seen."

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