The end of July saw the government launch an obesity strategy that contains some bold ideas – but does it address the root causes?
COVID-19 has affected those with excess weight more severely. Public Health England research showed obese people were twice as likely to be admitted to hospital, and more likely to be admitted to intensive care compared with those of healthy weight.
The end of July saw the government launch an obesity strategy that contains some bold ideas.
These include the end of ‘buy one, get one free’ and other promotions on foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS). It also proposes banning these products from prominent positions, such as shop entrances and checkouts.
Unhealthy special offers
Our research in 2016 and 2019 showed special offers were mostly on confectionery, sugary drinks and other products.
Instead, retailers will be encouraged to offer promotions on healthier choices like fruit and veg – although it’s not clear how this will be done.
Another new measure, and one we’ve long supported, is a ban on advertising HFSS foods and drinks online and on TV before 9pm.
Current rules don’t cover programmes most watched by children such as Britain’s Got Talent.
There will also be a consultation on a blanket ban on advertising HFSS foods online and on social media.
Other measures include calorie labelling in cafés and restaurants that employ more than 250 people, calorie labelling on alcohol packaging, plus a consultation on front of pack labelling that could lead to traffic light labelling being mandatory rather than voluntary.
Will the latest strategy fix the problem?
Of course, we’ve had obesity strategies before and these steps alone won’t fix the problem.
As a former NHS nutritionist, I can see key elements missing from the plans. There’s no mention of early childhood years– even though 23% of children start school overweight or obese.
Also missing is any attempt to address our food environment at large, including the impact of socioeconomic inequalities and so-called food deserts where people have limited access to nutritious food.
What do you think of the government’s latest obesity strategy? How far do you think it will go towards fixing the issues?