By Jack Street
The government has outlined new plans to tackle obesity in the UK. Obesity levels in the UK have continued to rise year after year which poses a major threat to public health and the NHS. 30% of UK adults are recognised as clinically obese and 63% of adults are seen as being overweight. These new plans are being introduced to tackle this threat and begin to reduce the levels of obesity in the UK.
The government has said that they want to tackle this issue with a public health campaign to bring down obesity levels that can increase the risk of dying from a plethora of illnesses, including Covid-19, and as a way to save the NHS money. The plans include:
A ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9 pm
The end of deals like ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy food high in salt, sugar and fat
Calories to be displayed on menus to help people make healthier choices when eating out – while alcoholic drinks could soon have to list hidden ‘liquid calories’
A new campaign to help people lose weight, get active and eat better after COVID-19 ‘wake-up call’
Reactions to the plan
During the launch, the Prime Minister used his personal experience with weight and recent Covid-19 health scare to argue for the plans. The link between obesity and increased death rates from Covid-19 have increased the immediacy of the problem. These plans have been encouraged by some health campaigners, in particular Jamie Oliver, who has called it a welcome first step in the campaign to tackle the obesity crisis.
Critics, however, have suggested that these plans won’t actually help to reduce obesity and are actually nothing more than ‘scare tactics’. This criticism refers to the displaying of calories on menus shaming consumers into eating healthier meals. Many argue that this tactic is ineffective and could increase the mental health problems of those with eating disorders. Furthermore, the Government has incurred the wrath of the sugar and fast food industries who are unhappy about the proposals, along with advertising companies who have called it a ‘slap in the face for the advertising sector’. Critics of the plan to ban ads before the watershed have pointed out that a 2019 Government impact assessment found ‘’scant evidence’’ for a ban on advertising. Supporters of the ban claim that reducing children’s exposure to fast food and ensuring that children have healthy school and hometime meals is the best way to reduce obesity.
It remains to be seen whether the Government will follow through on these plans as pressure from the powerful fast food industry grows. The current government isn’t shy about changing its mind but hopefully, this is as it seems, a genuine attempt to tackle a crisis that has been ignored for far too long.