Councils should get more say over unhealthy food

The Health and Social Care Committee has claimed that local authorities need to be allowed to limit the proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in their areas.

As part of their report into childhood obesity, the committee has identified several key areas which demand attention as a matter of urgency by the government, including giving local authorities powers to limit the proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in their areas and the prevalence of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) food and drink billboard advertising near schools.

As part of this, the committee urges for health to be made an objective within the planning system in order to give local authorities the tools they need to make effective changes at local level. Additionally, the government should ensure that there are robust systems in place to ensure that overweight or obese children are offered effective help in a multidisciplinary approach, and that service provision extends to their families.

The report also calls for a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising, a ban on brand generated characters or licensed TV and film characters from being used to promote HFSS products and regulation in place to restrict the discounting and price promotions which drive higher volumes of consumption of unhealthy food and drink.

Sarah Wollaston, chair of the committee, said: "We want to see a whole systems approach and for local authorities to be given the powers they need to reduce childhood obesity in their communities. Health needs to be made an objective within the planning and licensing system. Government needs to further help reduce childhood obesity by introducing tougher restrictions on the marketing and advertising of junk food, including by bringing in a 9pm advertising watershed.

“It should also act to protect children by banning the offers and displays that push high volume sales and impulse buying of junk food and drink. I welcome the sugary drinks levy that has already played a vital role in driving reformulation and call for this to be extended to milky drinks which contain added sugar."

Linda Thomas, vice chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Doing nothing is not an option. Without action, and unless councils have more powers, the health of individuals will continue to suffer, health inequalities associated with obesity will remain, and the economic and social costs will increase to unsustainable levels. No single measure is likely to be effective on its own in tackling obesity, which is why wide-ranging reforms based on a joined-up approach is vital to preventing this ill health timebomb on society and tackling health inequalities. It is vital that the measures in the childhood obesity plan improve the health of young people, and can help parents make more informed choices about the eating habits and lifestyles of their children.”

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