The government’s plan to tackle childhood obesity has been attacked on all sides for its weak strategy, backing out of promises and even pointlessness.
The plan calls for the food and drink industry to cut 5% of the sugar in products popular amongst children within the next year. Public Health England is to monitor the changes over the next four years.
In addition, primary schools are to deliver a minimum of 30 minutes’ physical activity a day and to ensure parents and carers deliver the same amount at home. School sports are to receive more funding and a tax on sugary drinks will be introduced in 2018.
Dr. Sarah Wollaston, also a Tory MP, accused her own parties plan of bearing the mark of “the hand of big industry lobbyists.” Wollaston, chairwoman of the health select committee, calls the plan “really disappointing” and points out that“whole sections of the original draft have been dropped.”
Much of the promises made for the initial child obesity plan have disappeared in the new one, including introducing measures for advertising junk food and two-for-one deals. Wollastan added that it puts the “interests of advertising marketers ahead of the interests of children.”
In agreement with Wollaston is Professor Parveen Kumar, chairwoman of the British Medical Association’s board of science. Kumar said the government had “rowed back on its promises by announcing what looks like a weak plan rather than the robust strategy it promised.”
“Although the government proposes targets for food companies to reduce the level of sugar in their products, the fact that these are voluntary and not backed up by regulation renders them pointless.”
The chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Mike Coup, called for a tougher regime including mandatory sugar targets as opposed to May’s voluntary targets.
TV chef and celebrity Jamie Oliver chimed in, saying:
“It was set to be one of the most important health initiatives of our time, but look at the words used- ‘should, might, we encourage’- too much of it is voluntary, suggestive, where are the mandatory points?”