Anger as anti-obestity plan ignores calls for curbs on TV adverts

Anti-obesity plan ignores calls for controls over TV adverts. Picture: Matt Morton/PA Wire
Anti-obesity plan ignores calls for controls over TV adverts. Picture: Matt Morton/PA Wire
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Scotland’s food standards body has hit out at the UK Government after it published an obesity strategy branded “disappointing” and “watered-down”.

Food Standards Scotland said it was not consulted while the strategy was being drawn up, and that calls for tough curbs on TV advertising for fatty and sugary foods aimed at children were ignored.

Nutrition experts, health campaigners, opposition politicians and even supermarket executives rounded on the UK Government following publication of the document, which aims to tackle the growing public health problem posed by rising levels of obesity.

Measures announced in the strategy include a tax on high-sugar soft drinks and a 20 per cent target for food producers to cut sugar levels over the next four years.

However, the targets will be voluntary, and calls from campaigners for a ban on supermarket bulk-buy deals for confectionary similar to rules introduced in Scotland to cut alcohol consumptions have been ignored. FSS has also called for restrictions on Facebook and Twitter adverts for sugary snacks targeted at children.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last year promised “draconian” measures to tackle a “national scandal”, but encountered opposition from other government departments.

FSS chairman Ross Finnie said the strategy “simply does not go far enough” and asked the food industry in Scotland to work towards its tougher demands on reformulating unhealthy snacks and reducing portion sizes.

“It is particularly disappointing that some crucial measures such as taking action on promotions and on advertising and marketing have been ignored,” he said.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Tory MP and GP who chairs the Commons health select committee, said “whole sections” of the strategy had been dropped between the draft stage and publication, adding: “I’m afraid it does show the hand of big industry lobbyists and that’s really disappointing.” Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver said he was left “in shock” after reading the strategy, dismissing it as “far from robust”.

But the measures were defended by Jane Ellison, a former health minister involved in developing the strategy, who it was the “most ambitious programme of reformulation that any developed country has taken”.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said no commitments had been given on introducing advertising restrictions, and said the UK Government would be working with the Scottish Government to implement the new sugar tax across the UK, with proceeds distributed via the Barnett formula.