/ Food & Drink, Health, Parenting

The Government is in denial about childhood obesity

Sweets and children

The long-awaited childhood obesity strategy has finally been published. But is it really enough to tackle obesity in the UK?

It’s now a plan, rather than strategy, and it’s generally been criticised on all fronts – including from Which?, for failing to sufficiently tackle the seriousness of the problem we face.

Putting it into context – two thirds of the population are overweight or obese, and that also extends to around a third of 10-11 year olds.

We’ve had various strategies and plans from various governments over the years – but we continue to have one of the highest rates of obesity in the world.

Childhood obesity strategy

Obesity affects people’s quality of life, it leads to other health conditions (such as diabetes and cancers) and also has huge implications for the economy and health service.

We know from our research that most people have a pretty good idea what they should be eating. It’s putting it into practice that’s the problem.

There are a wide range of factors that influence our health choices, so it’s fair to say there’s no straightforward solution.

However, the scale of promotions for unhealthy foods repeatedly comes out as an area where people tell us they think action would help.

Whether it’s the balance of healthier price promotions in supermarkets, sweets at checkouts or the foods that are marketed to children through packaging, on-line and a whole host of other techniques – our research shows that the odds are too often loaded towards the unhealthy, rather than the healthy.

So that’s what’s really disturbing about this new plan. There’s no mention of tackling the way that foods are promoted at all.

There will, however, be a focus on trying to reduce sugar in foods that children are most likely to eat through a sugar levy. There’s also targets aimed at lowering sugar levels by 20% – which is good to see, although there are no targets to be set for reducing fat.

Companies are also being asked to innovate to develop healthier foods, the public sector food providers are being asked to offer healthier options and menus will be developed for early years providers.

Tackling obesity

So lots of requests and reliance on voluntary action. But we are way beyond that point.

We needed decisive Government action to really commit to helping to tackle this problem, but they have side-stepped one of the main areas where action was desperately needed.

Do you think the Government should rethink the childhood obesity strategy?

Yes, it's not good enough (77%, 2,551 Votes)

No, it's not their responsibility (18%, 590 Votes)

Not sure (3%, 113 Votes)

No, I think this will be enough (2%, 63 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,317

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Comments

When people are making decisions about what food to put in their trolley and what food to put on the table they are influenced first and foremost by what is available and what other people do. This is the strategy that served us well as hunter gatherers. If the supermarkets are full of certain products it is perfectly obvious that this is what “everybody” is buying and eating”. People think that healthy eating is something you do in addition to normal eating.
How we get over this is going to be impossible unless we accept that a massive contraction of the food production and marketing industry is going to be required. This is because, for most people it is smaller portions of ordinary food that is required to let their weight fall to a healthy level. This is a weight losing strategy that actually saves the consumer money and so is not likely to be embraced by the industry or any business orientated government.

Come on people get real. Why should the government step in and ban or regulate junk food. It’s NOT their problem, education should begin at home with the parents and children. It’s the parents responsibility to educate their children on how much and how often they should eat this junk/fast foo, if you don’t know, get help! Families should take a good look in their fridges and cupboards to see what ‘junk’ food is in there such as biscuits, chocolate, snacks, crisps, ready-made-meals, or fizzy drinks. How many families actually cook meals from scratch? Many cannot be bothered to cook or make the excuse that they don’t have the time…..then get a slow cooker! Get a pressure cooker! get yourselves a steamer! these all help to get fresh, healthy food from scratch to the table quicker. How many families eat their meals together around a dining table? Many families order food online to be delivered and then sit around like couch potatoes watching tv, that’s your junk food and you don’t know what’s in it.  Kids spend their time on computer/video games or on their iPads or smartphones or watching tv instead of visiting the local sports hall.  Ok, I’m of the older generation when we didn’t have all the electronic gizmos and tv and spent all our spare time outside. I did like my sweets when I was young and especially sugar cubes and at 18 I would eat like a horse and think nothing of eating 12 sandwiches at a time. Because of the outdoor activities we did I never put on weights I was still like a rake.  When our children were younger we had some birthday parties at McDonald’s or a Wimpy but they never lived on burgers and chips etc we (my wife and myself) have always cooked from scratch, now adults they are strong and healthy. Yes, we’ve had the occasional fish and chip dinners and restaurant treats but we would spend our weekends out at various attractions such as recreation parks, wildlife parks, zoos or theme parks and lots and lots of time down the coast. The tv programme Eat Well For Less in which Greg Wallace and Chris Bavin helps families cut their food bill and cut out food wastes. It went on to show the rubbish families were buying with so many ready-made_meals and snacks and virtually no fruit or vegetables. And, the reason for this was that the parents didn’t know how to cook a meal from scratch! People who think the government should regulate or ban the ‘junk’ food they themselves are buying are delusional, the government is NOT buying your junk food, YOU ARE!  When your children open the fridge they don’t look in a fridge for carrots, do they? There’s nothing wrong with eating read_made_meals but like everything else, it has to be done in moderation. In my hand is a receipt from our last big food shop and I can see down the list there is……. Chicken wings, chicken thighs, chicken fillets, pork ribs, pork belly, kippers x2, sea bream, carrots, potatoes, prepared kale x2, cauliflower, broccoli x3, Chinese leaf, celery, lettuce, red pepper, ginger root, radishes, broad beans, runner beans, baby corn, sugar snaps, mushrooms, cucumber, spring onions, beetroot x2, cherry tomatoes, dozen eggs, wholemeal bread, skimmed milk, apples, strawberries, plums. What you buy is your responsibility, it’s your money the government doesn’t pay you to buy the ‘junk’ food. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper cooking from scratch and healthier too. We have numerous spices in our cupboard which helps to put together various meals from scratch over the week with the food we’ve bought. We will be going to a restaurant on Saturday, as we are celebrating our daughter’s birthday and the family will get together (our children have grownup and left home) it will probably be another month or two until my wife and myself will visit another restaurant. What I’m getting at is that what you buy and eat is YOUR responsibility NOT the governments! 

If the Government wants to get involved in reducing childhood obesity, it would do better to look at the way the National Curriculum has reduced the amount of physical activity children are encouraged to do in school, particularly in primary schools. Rather than rake in extra revenue by creating a sugar tax, which, in my opinion, will unfairly penalise the poor, the Government should insist that all schools include at least one hour’s organised physical activity every day in the curriculum for all children.

Who shops and cooks for all these overweight children ? Who is responsible for their diet? If parents abdicate responsibility why is it the rest of the country have to take on their role? the education for health is all out there, BE a responsible parent, Love is not food and sweets it is on occasions having a child say I hate you when you look after them and do the best for them

I’m concerned that the focus is centred so much around ‘sugar’. Whilst ‘sugar’ is the biggest problem, sugar is just another carbohydrate and total daily consumption of carbs matters as well as sugar. As a diabetic I know to read the back of food packaging (the front traffic label stuff is irrelevant) and the Total carbs not just the Sugars. Whilst this is to control blood sugar it also helps control weight. Fat doesn’t make you fat but carbs do other than at extremes. Any new T2 diabetic who is overweight is best advised to have a low-carb, higher fat diet. The fat does not in general affect cholesterol deposits, despite what we are told, as these are controlled by the liver and fats help you feel full reducing any carb cravings. I look to Which? to investigate and challenge much of government healthy eating advice as it is strongly influenced by the food industry lobby and is in many ways wrong. Which? investigates products and tells us about the good and bad ones. I look to Which? to do the same for food advice and not just repeat government mantra which is often simply wrong.

David Bell, the problem here (among others) is that sugar eaten as sugar rather than as starch, is addictive and people crave more as they eat more. Low carb diets are not the answer; a BALANCED diet is, with the carbs a small part of the week’s food, and most of that in lightly processed or unprocessed form – wholemeal bread, whole wheat/rice pasta, fruit rather than juice and lots of vegetables, for example. The current advice from the Harvard School of Health and Nutrition puts it very well, and goes further towards good health than any government dare suggest: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/ . Processed food manufacturers won’t follow this way, simply because profit leads the opposite way: to make ‘foods’ that are cheap on ingredients, long on shelf life, addictive and easy to advertise successfully. Customers’ health is nowhere in this formula, as long as the lawyers think that litigation will not work.

Sally says:
19 August 2016

We need to remember that obesity is only part of the problem. Diabetes and cancer are also linked to excesses of sugar.
I also agree with the comments regarding school sport. At my grandchildren’s primary school a long run at the end of lunch break has improved the fitness, shape and behaviour of the children.

Why are so many people suffering from food allergies and obesit? I lay the blame on the food producers. GM crops may improve yield but my body and thousands of others can’t tolerate the change in the molecular structure. I’m off to Turkey soon where I can eat all the bread I want because it’s naturally grown without man messing about with nature.

I am absolutely devastated that the government is shirking it’s responsibility and condemning more children to an unhealthy life.
Snack and soft drinks manufacturers are NOT going to reduce the sugar content in their products significantly UNLESS THEY ARE REQUIRED TO DO SO BY LEGISLATION.
Surely if sugar content is gradually reduced children (or adults) would hardly notice the difference.

We have reached a stage in our evolution where supermarkets have become the norm and competition is now the name of the game to survive. Gone are the days when a shopping list was written to a particular household budget, was handed over to the local grocer on the corner and picked up all nicely packed into a cardboard box and carried back to your house.. (A bit like Open All Hours!)

Today we have entered the world of the supermarket with a trolley on wheels to push up and down long corridors with tiered shelves laiden with multicoloured packets, tins, trays and boxes containing food all inviting one to readily and easily pop into ones trolley.

You can’t turn back the clock and I don’t envisage anyone wanting to, but change in ones eating habits is difficult and hard to implement until a health crises occurs and medication and adaptation becomes the new name of the game, unfortunately too late for some.

Old habits die hard and eating ones are often passed down from parents to children almost from birth with both parents now expected to work either full or part time in order to ‘make ends meet’, unless you belong to the privileged 1 percent who can afford to resort to the days of only one parent working. Working parents today are now more likely to resort to a supermarket quick fix after arriving home rather than to stand over a hot hob or oven cooking the sort of meal our mothers used to make.

So what is the solution and does education help? The solution has to lie surely with coming to terms with the health and wellbeing of future generations before disease and illness take over, putting extra burden on the NHS which is becoming more and more difficult to access with Government resorting to even more expenditure through private practice to cope with the extra demand.

It’s a lose, lose situation all round, so if legislation to reduce the amount of sugar in food and drink will assist in fewer children becoming obese then Government should act, but that is only part of the solution. I think we should all reassess and discipline our children into eating less ‘comfort’ type food and encourage more in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables, but that can only be achieved surely by parents first changing their own eating habits.

I noticed in Tesco today a tray of fruit [bananas, apples, pears, oranges] put out for parents to give their children to eat as they went round the store [free of charge – one item per child]. Seemed like a good initiative but some might criticise it as a token gesture. It makes a change from seeing them munching their way through a bag of crisps and a fizzy drink as they go round. It will be interesting to see if it lasts.

Maybe the message is at last getting through 🙂

I would be very interested to learn which fruit was the overall favourite with the children!

and I wonder how much was taken?

I don’t know how much of each fruit was put out in the first place and whether or not it was replenished. At the time I noticed the tray there were plenty of apples left, some oranges and pears, but few bananas. I guess the popularity of each fruit is related to how easy it is on the teeth and whether it makes a mess. I don’t know where the children were expected to put their apple cores and banana skins. I suppose they could take one of the flimsy plastic bags available on the fruit stalls. I somehow can’t see this initiative spreading to M&S which doesn’t appear to attract many children anyway. Waitrose mothers don’t seem to allow grazing and won’t issue fruit to their children before washing it.

FSS, which was established by the Food (Scotland) Act 2015, has responsibility for food safety, authenticity, standards and labelling. But the Scottish Government has also added diets to the organisation’s remit.

It’s OK providing government guidance but if many take no notice, or ignore it, then how far do you go to protect people from themselves? We don’t ban alcohol to protect those who abuse it, nor tobacco although the outcome is well known. Give people information, list the contents on the food packet, but if people choose to do their own thing I see little we can do to stop their freedom of choice. Children are at risk from poor diet, alcohol and smoking decisions; parents need to consider the wellbeing of their offspring – that should be a major incentive, you would think.

Oh, for a proactive health initiative, instead of the relentless stream of reactive diktats at which every Government seems to excel. This latest one is a little like changing the colour of the flag being waved by the man who has to walk in front of all horseless carriages. It’s not only too late and too little but it tackles the result without even bothering to examine the cause.

It’s too late to install better locks on the stable doors, because the horses are already out there. And in any case, simply changing the plastic locks for cardboard ones probably won’t have the desired effect, even if you get the horses back in.

One glaringly obvious outcome if this becomes legislation is that manufacturers of the ‘sweet and swift’ ready-meal brigade will simply switch sweeteners. Instead of sugar foods will be laced with other, even more worrying chemical compounds and the government will once again be in the catch-up loop.

Governments never seem to learn, but these proposals should be thrown out, because they will never work as intended while there are so many incompetent parents around. It’s a social and cultural issue, not a manufacturing issue, and simply nailing a handy piece of chipboard over the hole in the Titanic’s hull won’t work. Obesity needs a social paradigm shift of massive proportions to make a difference. Forget tinkering around the edges; the issue needs to be tackled through a comprehensive programme of education, directed through every cultural outlet. Until people feel it’s unacceptable to be obese things will only get worse.

Well said, Ian – “Until people feel it’s unacceptable to be obese things will only get worse.

As I see people struggling to walk down a railway carriage, get into a lift, sit in a theatre seat, climb out of a car, go forwards through a doorway, and buy clothes that look half decent, I keep thinking . . . surely people will realise this is just not the way to go. Not being able to walk up stairs, having difficulty using a toilet, having to do everything slowly, needing help to get dressed and put on shoes, not being able to bend down for products on the lower shelf, having to use the wide gate at the station barrier line, seeing one’s face disappear into the neck – at what point does the humiliation, the disappointment, the conspicuity, and the wasted time, bring about a change of behaviour? We are conditioned to witnessing with sympathy, accepting odd explanations, saying nothing untoward, pulling no faces or smirking, being polite and accommodating, and watching with no outward show of disapproval as they pile the carbs and calories into their shopping trolleys. I wonder if it is at all possible for ‘society’ to change things. I can’t see when it will be “unacceptable to be obese”.

The world around us is adjusting to accept obesity – new trains will have wider seats in 2+2 formation instead of 2+3, cinemas are fitting wider seats, telephone boxes are disappearing as the mobile phone now dominates, benches are appearing in pubs and restaurants, buses have wider doors [intended for wheelchair users], bathtubs are getting wider [overtly in the name of luxury], overweight people are buying heavy-duty mobility scooters, domestic furniture is changing to fit the fuller form, and larger clothes sizes are available in popular styles. Even landscape-format selfies can now moderate the embarrassment. Double sinks, American sized fridges, range cookers, and big TV’s all reinforce the impression that wide is wonderful.

As has been said previously in several comments, we might have lost one generation to obesity but surely we have a duty to save the next, and I feel the government has a duty to act. We are facing a huge future cost implication for the NHS from existing bad lifestyle choices; we had better not compound it.

Sugar has now been recognised as a highly addictive substance, so why is the Government in denial? The truth is, as with any addiction, denial is the main problem, which is the reason why we witness the kind of scenes described by John in his extremely moving post and also the reason why people continue to abuse their own bodies, or more importantly, find someone else, usually ‘friends’ or relatives, to enable them to continue to do so.

It does however take on a different perspective when the food industry continues to overload their provisions with excessive sugar. Whether this is to increase productivity and sales by unknowingly or by deliberately encouraging addiction in our children during their formative years is highly debatable.

Sugar is a great neurological comforter, so that when taken regularly in excess can interfere with the brains neurotransmitters responsible for the pain – pleasure sensation, leading first to addiction and then denial of a problem that is extremely hard to break once established. It’s only through applying tough love to the affected person, a very difficult and upsetting process for both the afflicted and their relatives. can the problem be overcome.

There are of course a number of reasons for addiction, whether it be food, drugs, exercise and yes, even computer websites! But when an unacceptable high level of a substance that has the potential to harm our children during their physiological and psychological formation is added to our food it is time for Government to act NOW before it is too late.

For more info on addiction, log onto: psychologytoday.com – Addicted to Denial: The Truth about Addicts and Addiction – David Bedrick.

I believe this government knowingly ignores issues which affects the bank balance of huge companies. I don’t believe you cant put the blame at anyone’s door in particular. Parents, government’s and businesses are all at fault. You can’t change what doesn’t want to be changed. Sugar levies are just a drop in the ocean. What really needs to change is the attitude towards obesity. Education in schools is a good place to start. Parents generally know what is good for their children, and should be responsible for their health and perhaps wiser when it comes to choosing which products they put in their shopping trolleys.

NHS nutrition guidelines and example by practice leave a lot to be desired e.g. their continuing to push outdated ‘low fat’ diets and McDonald’s, pret a thingy and other fast food outlets in most NHS hospital foyers.

It’s not just the obvious foods that are loaded with sugar. i.e. sweets biscuits and fizzy drinks.

The majority of processed foods are loaded with sugars to make them more palatable or addictive.
And, as it doesn’t have any nutritional value, just highly addictive, the Government needs to set strict guidelines,
All food manufacturers should be made to stick to say no more than 5/10 % sugar content.
I don’t actually know how much sugar is too much as there doesn’t seem to be any clear information.
Just total daily intake information. But who is going to tally their daily intake on a regular basis? Apart from calorie counters……
As we all need to eat in order to survive. the food industry is a very lucrative one. And it seems to me that the Government is answerable to the manufacturers rather than the other way round.

More definitely needs to be done.

Perhaps it’s time ask why the sudden interest in Sugar as the arch villain. We’ve known about its inherent dangers since at least 1972, when John Yudkin, a British professor of nutrition sounded the alarm on sugar in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly. And studies of the Inuit and their apparent immunity to high fat diets, and their sharp deterioration in oral health with the advent of the first sugar imports predated that book by many years.

This latest push has its origins in a youtube video of a lecture by Robert Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has now been viewed more than six million times. In it, Lustig argues forcefully that fructose, a form of sugar ubiquitous in modern diets, is a “poison” culpable for America’s obesity epidemic.

Sugar’s also been recognised as an addictive substance for a long time, although far less addictive than some chemicals, so why is it suddenly being touted as the arch-demon? More importantly, governmental intervention isn’t really an appropriate response. Why? Because legislation won’t change the way people think and behave. To do that you have to turn to the advertisers.

Yudkin’s warning had little effect because he used calm logical reasoning to explain the situation. But people are almost never convinced by calm and careful analyses: they react emotionally and impulsively, because that’s how our genes mandate we do. Simply taxing sugar is extremely dangerous, because manufacturers, desperate to increase market share and profits, will simply turn to alternatives. And they could easily be more lethal. The only way to change behaviour and thinking is to harness the immense power of the advertising industry. Although no one ever admits to being affected in any way whatsoever by advertising – they are. We all are, because the well-designed advert operates on several levels and influences us in numerous subtle and subconscious ways.

Obesity is a mental condition. People allow themselves to become obese and allow their children to become obese. We have the mechanisms to help the children through the Children Act, which allows for the children to be removed if serious neglect can be proved. It’s almost never used, so perhaps we should ask why it isn’t?

The adults, however, are a different matter. As long as an adult believes it’s acceptable to drink, smoke and eat their way to an early demise, then simply creating a sugar tax won’t make the slightest bit of difference.

I agree a sugar tax is not going to help. What is most needed is for Which? appointed microbiologists to submit a governmental report to The Ministry of Health, highlighting the amount of sugar contained in processed food and drink (maybe they have already done this) and to differentiate between that and the sugar contained within highfibre foods such as fruit and their digestive processes, starting with baby foods and upwards.

TV advertising, warning consumers of the dangers of over imbibing in high refined sugar products may go some way to stem the flow of food producers, and in particular cereal manufacturers, from filling the supermarket shelves with food entirely unfit to give to the nations children.

It is not going to happen overnight, but you have to begin somewhere if you are serious about changing the UK’s ever increasing obesity problem and its subsequent drain on our NHS.

It is said that the population was in far better condition when under the restrictions of rationing during wartime. Rationing allowed a limited but nutritious diet that encouraged people to grow and cook healthy fruit and vegetables to supplement the basics available under the ration. The general ration was adequate and led to the population being leaner, fitter and generally more effective in daily tasks and manual work. Sweets did not come off ration until 1951 if I remember correctly. A lot of the salt-laden, chocolate-coated sugar-saturated, and sauced-up products of today were not available in those days, of course, plus hardly anybody had a car [or if they did could not go far because petrol was rationed as well].

The last lot of EU statistics – 2009 – show, for 19 EU countries, statistics for those who are overweight, and obese.
For women, the average was 30% overweight, 45% overweight + obese. UK came 1st, with France 18th and Italy 19th.
For men, the average was 44% overweight, 60% overweight + obese. Malta came out 1st, UK 3rd, France 19th.

Most EU countries are suffering the same fate, so maybe we need an EU edict? (well, not us now). Men and women seem to have the same obesity average, but a significantly greater proportion of men are overweight (around 14%.

Undated is a list of top 15 world f*t countries, headed by Mexico 33%, USA, 32%; UK came 7th at 23% with Germany 12th, Hungary 15th. No sign of France.

Any conclusions? We all need to eat less, drink less alcohol and pop, eat better and get more exercise, unless we have another world war and go onto rationing and harder labour.

And I’m not entirely sure about the WWII comparison. There are insufficient data to draw any reliable conclusions, I suspect. And Beryl makes an interesting point. If you explained to the average person that a single slice of wholemeal bread contains the equivalent of three spoonfuls of sugar, which it does, I doubt they’d believe you.

And one of the greatest source of sugars is alcohol, so I seriously doubt taxing sugar or even calm, well-organised statistics will work, other than on a small minority, and that almost certainly the very minority who take good care of themselves, anyway.

No – really the problem is too big, too deep-seated to deal with cosmetically, through sugar taxes and the like. We have to create a culture where it’s simply more unpleasant to be vastly overweight than it is to be fairly svelte. As for the kids it’s far more difficult, because it means removing the children from obese parents, at least initially, and that will almost certainly be politically unacceptable.

Governments are scared of the strength of multinationals. They are stronger than most governments. Hence democracy is a farce we all seem to believe in. It is an adult dummy, the opium of the people. This is a prime example of big business influencing policy.

I view democracy in a slightly different way. Instead of asking the Government to do everything for us the people can do quite a lot for themselves. If we just stop buying the rubbish we’ll see how the multinationals argue their way out of that.

George, short of sticking a large label on supermarket produce saying “Don’t buy this it’s rubbish” how do you propose to prevent the overweight two thirds of adults buying it for themselves and their children?

Competition amongst the supermarket giants has hotted up considerably since Aldi and Lidil have entered the fray and profit margins are beginning to be affected and without some Government intervention I don’t envisage supermarkets clamping down on promoting unhealthy food unless pressure is applied from The Department of Health.

Old habits die hard and comfort food and drink is continuing to be enjoyed for its sweet but addictive taste which is also fed to children who have know idea they are slowly becoming addicted to it. I agree parents have a responsibility to ensure their children eat a healthy diet, but if parents themselves don’t, what hope is there for their children?
,

Probably no hope Beryl. But at least a third of the populace seem to manage. I think your idea of labeling is good. Why not put a label on appropriate products that says “This can make you fat”. An interesting experiment would be to try this in a sample few stores and see just how many people took notice of it. We know “alcohol can make you drunk” but a lot is sold, and ditto cigarettes “can cause cancer” so hopeless?

I still wonder at the statistic that 2/3 of adults are f*t or worse. Seems a lot of intelligent people must be among them. If they don’t act – no, there may be no hope.

According to ASH [Action on Smoking and Health] “smoking peaked in the UK in 1974 and since then sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products have declined steadily. In 2014, overall sales of manufactured cigarettes fell by 2.2%”. This rate of decline appears to be continuing and possibly accelerating to 3-4% if evidence from convenience stores is reliable.

Government and EU intervention and legislation have brought about considerable changes in smoking. Cigarette packs are now covered by grim warnings and cigarettes are no longer on open sale; the gantries in supermarkets and shops now have sliding doors. There is no brand advertising at the point of sale and shopfronts are no longer dominated by tobacco advertising. There are no longer any cigarette machines in pubs and other public places. There is no advertising in print, TV, or cinema media. Even motor racing is no longer carrying tobacco sponsorship emblems on cars, tracks and uniforms.

Duty on tobacco products has been escalated in successive budgets and the rate on cigarettes is now 16.5% of the retail price plus £3.93 on a packet of 20 [and VAT at 20% is also payable].

Yes, there is still a strong residual level of cigarette consumption but it is progressively reducing, and tobacco companies are still making increased profits despite the sales decline. Other problems persist like contraband imports, and the substitution of electronic cigarettes is not an entirely welcome development but as part of the process of change it has its place; unfortunately young people who have never smoked are being attracted to it

I would argue that a broad range of interventions in the selling of food products harmful to children, if determined, consistent, and progressive, can achieve positive change in eating and health – the more so if it is backed up by information, health awareness and education, good role models and examples, responsible promotion of attractive alternatives, and a supportive culture of recognition of the benefits rather than, as Beryl has identified, exposure to psychological peer ridicule and abuse as a consequence of overweight and obesity.

There already is a label on packaged foods and it lists the constituent parts of that product. I am not talking about the traffic light system which I deplore. If you learn about food and check the label to see if it provides the macro nutrients you want for whatever you are into then you won’t have to listen to promotions.

There are only three macro nutrients to learn which are carbohydrates, protein and fat so the learning is not too difficult.

Competition and Government intervention do not enter into it unless to educate the public and they are not doing a very good job of it at the moment. They seem to get by telling people that they can eat this or they can’t eat that and are unable to point to the research from where they got their information.

I think comfort food and drink is a good idea but if you can’t handle it anymore and start getting obese or diabetic then there is an argument for thinking it out again.

Parents do have a responsibility and they too need educating. Professor Robert Lustig who specialises in treating obese children says he is getting them in at six months of age now. The parents give the babies a dummy dipped in syrup to keep them quiet. They may not even make it to the supermarket check out.

I think that Which might be missing the point. It’s a child obesity program so when did salt make anyone fat? Why do they want less salt? Also there is a ton of recent research showing that fat does not make you fat and does not cause heart disease. It was only the inaccurate Mr. Ancel Keys who said it did and he has been soundly debunked. So why reduce fat? There is also a ton of recent research showing that fat invokes the hormone Leptin which is about the only way anyone can get thin.

Which? have also missed the point that flour is a carbohydrate, makes people fat and it often used to bulk out cheap processed foods. Apart from the above points I am in favour of some action.

George by the time you have become obese you are more likely than not to be into food addiction. John’s comments above highlight the dangers of a slow and gradual descent into a dependence that can not only shorten your life but can also interfere with your thinking processes inasmuchas you can find a hundred reasons to justify your next ‘fix’.

There are two types of fat however, like most things in life, one good (LDL) the other bad (HDL) which can clogg up your arteries leading to heart attacks and stroke. Refined sugar, as with all carbohydrates, taken to excess is stored as fat in your liver and eventually starts piling on the pounds leading to a slow deterioration in both your physical and psychological welfare.

The present supermarket system of labelling, and I would stick my neck out here by hypothesizing that only the third who are not overweight are more likely to check the present labelling and the traffic lights system contained on most of their packaging. Perhaps Malcolm’s suggestion would carry a more dramatic and striking message “This can make you fat” would prove more effective in getting the message through to the other two thirds.

Perhaps Robert Browning in his 19th century proverbial phrase “Less is more Lucrezia” is the solution to over indulgence, but even that is open to interpretation. More perhaps in the way of the health benefits gained through consuming Less refined sugar and HDL fat is surely the best way to spell out the rewards gained by cutting down your consumption of both!

If you drink or smoke to excess you are unlikely at first, possibly for a long time, to notice the effects they are having on you. The thing about overeating, or eating the wrong food, is that it shows – you get fat. The bathroom scales will tell you how much. So you have the opportunity to nip it in the bud before it gets to the addictive stage. But perhaps many simply do not want to. Is this a choice they have, or should we impose a choice on them (I don’t know how that might even be practical)? Do people, even though given advice and information, not have the freedom to decide their own lives, even if it leads to an early death?

Yes. people should have the freedom to decide their own lives, and so long as their early death or constant illness affects no one else’s well-being – fine. But in the context of childhood obesity it is not as simple as that.

I agree with people having the freedom to decide their own lives Malcolm, but first spare a thought for the welfare of their offsprings and future generations. and also the affect your own health can have on your nearest and dearest?

Yes, I did refer to parents inflicting fatness on their offspring which I think is irresponsible.

I liked your verses Beryl and agree we don’t “own” our children, we are their custodians and mentors but short of the “authorities” stepping in to take over their care I don’t know how we doing anything about it, except to use the school educational system to make them directly aware of a healthy lifestyle and the consequences of the alternative. If they can, of their parents, demand the latest fashions in phones and trainers perhaps they could demand healthy food. Forget political correctness – being fat is bad.

Malcolm you have more or less answered your own question I think by accepting the bathroom scales should prevent you from becoming fat. Its when you start to believe there could be a problem with the bathroom scales so that you no longer use them, or the mirror is lying , do the delusional thinking processes work their destructive ‘magic’ and deceive you into believing there is no problem as long as your next ‘fix’ is available.

One popular rationalisation for the existing overweight is the art of convincing yourself there is always another day to start dieting “maybe tomorrow” which of course never arrives!

To return to the original topic, if food manufacturers are guilty of deliberately contaminating our food unbeknown to us with a substance that can potentially cause damage to our health if taken in excess, , then it is high time the Government intervened.

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Duncan I am very familiar. with Monsanto and their GM meddling with our crops. I am surprised to learn of their most recent failure to conduct necessary tests on inert ingredients in Roundup.

As I have an inherited thyroid problem that slows down my metabolic rate without taking medication, I have a particular interest in any new additives that can have an adverse affect on thyroid function.

I also have to keep a close check on my weight so any substance that has the potential to increase it is of concern to me and I need to know about it.

I am not looking for sympathy here but just stating my credentials for saying what I am about to say. I am diabetic and test my blood sugars on a regular basis and especially after eating so I am in a position to say that you don’t need Monsanto to cause a problem.

Many prepared foods are bulked out with rusk or flour to make them cheaper to manufacture. Things like kievs, dippers, nuggets, fingers etc. No animal comes in those shapes. The customer often assumes that there is chicken in there somewhere. The kiev factory in Kiev claim to get six kievs out of one chicken breast. Flour is largely comprised of long chain polymers of glucose which the body sees as glucose. Bread, for example, has a higher glycemic index than table sugar and many people eat more bread than they do table sugar. Rice is similar.

Thinking of children who often drink fizzy drinks with added sugar, chips with starch in, pizzas, sausages toast, dippers, burger buns and noodles etc. I don’t think you would have to go far to find a child whose diet was 100% carbohydrate. In many cases they would be better off eating the sweets and leaving the bread alone.

EDIT: Apologies for not managing this site very well. I used the wrong reply button I think.

Some excellent points there, George.

Pam Travis says:
21 August 2016

Obesity fundamentally goes back to education. When my eldest daughter was at school and taking the GCE she learnt (as I did at school in the late 50’s) to cook! We learnt food values, meal planning etc. etc. My younger daughter was part of the GCSE and learnt basically nothing in Home Economics, She learnt ‘e’ values and the difference between microwaving food and cooking the traditional way. She even took packets of cake mix to school instead of learning to make cake from butter, sugar eggs and flour. That generation are now in their 40’s and have children of their own! Fortunately my younger daughter learnt enough at home to be a very efficient cook today!