Childhood obesity strategy ‘weak’

Leading doctors and councils have labelled the government’s strategy to tackle childhood obesity in England as ‘weak’.

The government’s plan to reduce England’s rate of childhood obesity within the next 10 years includes plans for industry to cut the amount of sugar in food and drinks and calls for primary school children to eat more healthily and stay active.

This includes a voluntary target for manufacturers to cut sugar in children's food and drink by 20 per cent, and a drive for every primary school child to exercise for an hour a day.

The Local Government Association (LGA), alongside the British Medical Association (BMA), said its recommendations to give councils the power to ban junk food advertising near schools and require calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants haven’t been taken forward. They said that the government has ‘rowed back on its promises’.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA’s Portfolio Holder for Community Wellbeing, said: “It is disappointing that a number of key asks have not been included in the plan and we will continue to press government for them to be introduced.

"Councils are doing everything they can to curb obesity at a local level and will have spent more than half a billion pounds tackling obesity since they took over responsibility for public health three years ago. The recent cuts to public health budgets by government will make this task harder.

"To help plug this gap, we would like to see money raised from the planned levy on soft drinks to go to council public health teams, who are best placed to work in partnership with schools, nurseries, parents, businesses, the NHS and voluntary community sector, to make best use of the money and reduce child obesity.

"Councils however can only do so much, which is why we have been campaigning hard for tough measures to be introduced by government."

Norman Lamb, former health minister and health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said: “By caving in to the junk food lobby, the Government is letting down consumers and storing up serious problems for our already over-stretched NHS in years to come.”