Time for Action. Childhood Obesity Plan as Requested by Jeremy Hunt MP

Sunday 22nd June 2014

  • Call for Government to take immediate action on; sugar, junk food marketing, sports sponsorships, junk foods at the checkouts and taxation
  • Need for strategy to be implemented by an independent, non-Ministerial, agency

Childhood Obesity Action Plan

For media coverage, Click here.

Campaign group, Action on Sugar has been called upon by the Coalition Government, at a meeting with Jeremy Hunt MP in April, to address the childhood obesity crisis. Action on Sugar has responded with a strategy document of SEVEN critical areas of policy to prevent childhood obesity in the UK, presented to Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, on 13 June 2014 [Ref 1].

With one in five 10-11 year olds now obese and one in three overweight, the plan details the following key actions to change the food environment, which is responsible for the obesity epidemic [Ref 2]:

1. Reduce added sugars by 40% by 2020 by reformulating (similar to the CASH salt reduction programme [Ref 3])
2. Cease all forms of targeted marketing of ultra-processed, unhealthy foods and drinks to children
3. Disassociate physical activity with obesity via banning junk food sports sponsorships
4. Reduce fat in ultra-processed foods, particularly saturated fat – 15% reduction by 2020
5. Limit the availability of ultra-processed foods and sweetened soft drinks as well as reducing portion size
6. Incentivise healthier food and discourage drinking of soft drinks by introducing a sugar tax
7. Remove responsibility for nutrition from the Department of Health and return it back to an independent agency

If these actions are followed, the UK government will be the first country in the world to halt the obesity epidemic by reducing calories by 100kcal a day [Ref 4].  At present, the costs of obesity and Type II Diabetes are estimated at approximately £29billion a year, and given the number of children who are now obese; this figure is predicted to rise exponentially. The direct and indirect costs of treating Type II Diabetes alone are predicted to rise from £21.8billion to £35.6billion by 2035 [Ref 5]. Action MUST be taken now as current polices are clearly not working.


Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Action on Sugar says,
“Obesity in children leads to the premature development of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure, which are the commonest cause of death and disability in the UK. Obesity predisposes to Type II Diabetes, which further increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and also, importantly, it can lead to severe complications i.e. the commonest cause of blindness, renal dialysis and amputation of the lower limbs. These complications are extremely expensive to manage, and will cripple the NHS if the increase in obesity and Type II Diabetes is not stopped immediately.

"Obesity is preventable if the food environment is changed, yet the current policies are not working.  The UK requires the implementation of this coherent strategy, starting by setting incremental sugar reduction targets for soft drinks this Summer.  No delays, no excuses.”

Dr Aseem Malhotra, Cardiologist and Science Director of Action on Sugar says, "It is really quite shameful that the food industry continues to spend billions in junk food advertising targeting children, the most vulnerable members of society. They even manage to associate sugary products with sport. Physical activity has a multitude of benefits but a child doing an hour of PE every day would be putting all to waste if they ended up gorging on a burger and chips and a packet of crisps washed down with a sugary drink. One has to run half a marathon to burn off those calories. It's time to bust the myth of physical activity and obesity and dissociate junk food and sport."

Katharine Jenner, Public Health Nutritionist of Action on Sugar says, "The underlying cause of obesity in children is the processed food and drink environment – calling it ‘personal responsibility’ just doesn’t wash any more.  Whilst individuals do what they can to look after their own welfare, the Government must also act in our best interests, rather than those of big business.  This means taking action using all the evidence-based tools at our disposal including taxation, reformulation, limiting the availability of unhealthy food at checkouts and to stop allowing the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.”  

-ENDS-

Notes to Editor
For more information contact:
National PR - David Clarke:  david@rock-pr.com 07773 225516

Action on Sugar
Action on Sugar is a group of specialists concerned with sugar and its effects on health. It is successfully working to reach a consensus with the food industry and Government over the harmful effects of a high sugar diet, and bring about a reduction in the amount of sugar in processed foods. Action on Sugar is supported by 21 expert advisors.
Website http://www.actiononsugar.org/
Tweet https://twitter.com/actiononsugar #LessSugar

References:
1. Childhood Obesity Action Plan, Prepared for Jeremy Hunt – Secretary of State for Health
2. Jebb SA. Dietary determinants of obesity. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 2007;8 Suppl 1:93-7.
3. F He, H C Brinsden and G A MacGregor, 2013. Salt reduction in the United Kingdom: a successful experiment in public health.http://www.nature.com/jhh/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/jhh2013105a.html
4. Department of Health, 2011. Healthy lives, healthy people. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/213720/dh_130487.pdf
5. Diabetic Medicine: http://www.diabetes.org.uk/About_us/News_Landing_Page/NHS-spending-on-diabetes-to-reach-169-billion-by-2035/