The Health Committee has today published its report on Childhood Obesity, entitled a “Time for Action”

The headline summary measures the Committee set out are (in their own words):

  • A ‘whole systems’ approach: an effective childhood obesity plan demands a joined-up, ‘whole systems’ approach. Government must change the narrative around childhood obesity, to make it clear that this is everyone’s business. A Cabinet-level committee should be set up which reviews the implementation of the plan, with mandatory reporting across all departments. We (The Committee) call on Government to set clear and ambitious targets for reducing overall levels of childhood obesity and the resulting health inequalities.
  • Marketing and advertising: we endorse the calls for a 9 pm watershed on junk food advertising. The next Government childhood obesity plan should include a ban on brand generated characters or licensed TV and film characters from being used to promote HFSS products on broadcast and non-broadcast media, and Government must align regulations on non-broadcast media with those for broadcast media.
  • Price promotions: we call on Government to regulate to restrict discounting and price promotions and on removing confectionery and other less healthy foods from the ends of aisles and checkouts which responsible retailers have requested, through statutory measures.
  • Early years and schools: we recommend that the Government should put in place further measures around early years and the first 1000 days of life, including setting targets to improve rates of breastfeeding, to combat childhood obesity, and urge a full and timely implementation of all of the school-centred measures contained in the original 2016 Child Obesity Action Plan.
  • Takeaways: the Government’s next childhood obesity plan must make it easier for local authorities to limit the proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in their areas. Local authorities also need further powers to limit the prevalence of HFSS food and drink billboard advertising near schools. Health should be made a licensing objective for local authorities.
  • Fiscal measures: we urge the Government to extend the successful soft drinks industry levy to milk-based drinks. The next Government childhood obesity plan must signal that further fiscal measures are being designed to encourage reformulation of products where targets are not being met.
  • Labelling: current progress on labelling in the UK is reliant on voluntary commitments and is therefore not universally applied. Calorie labelling at point of food choice for the out-of-home food sector would provide basic information to enable healthier choices.
  • Services for children living with obesity: the government must ensure there are robust systems in place to not only identify children who are overweight or obese but to ensure that these children are offered effective help in a multidisciplinary approach, and that service provision extends to their families. Throughout our report, we emphasise the need to focus on ‘healthy lifestyles’ rather than using stigmatising language.

In addition, the Committee call for:

  • Sponsorship: the plan should include a commitment to end sponsorship by brands overwhelmingly associated with high fat, sugar and salt products of sports clubs, venues, youth leagues and tournaments

Our response is as follows

“ISBA endorse the Health Committee’s call for both a ‘whole-systems’ approach to address the complex issue of childhood obesity and the recognition that Government needs to set out clearly the reduction in childhood obesity levels they expect as a result of each measure in the forthcoming Childhood Obesity Plan. These should be independently measured. Only then can we ensure that this complex and multi-faceted issue is being tackled in an evidence-led, proportionate and effective way.

“ISBA and its members – which includes the UK’s biggest brands - recognise the scale of the policy challenge in the UK. Despite already having the strictest advertising rules in the world for HFSS advertising to under 16s, we recognise that there are areas where more could be done to tackle childhood obesity. We look forward to discussing these proactively and positively with Government in the coming weeks.

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Written 30th May 2018
By Abi Slater