In the next few months we are likely to have a report on the Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy released. Hoorah!
However, there was recent uproar as a second report by Public Health England, looking at evidence behind successful interventions for reducing sugar intake has been delayed. This report (which was proposed to be released at the same time as the Childhood Obesity Strategy later this year) was suddenly released yesterday.
You can read all about this report on my last ’emergency’ 😉 blog post here, which points out 8 areas that Public Health England are focusing their action. These include:
On Tuesday last week, the Government’s Chief Nutritionist – Dr Alison Tedstone – also spoke to a panel in parliament alongside Susan Jebb, Nutrition Scientist from Oxford University.
The footage was available on Parliament TV and makes for very interesting viewing. For anyone interested in the Governmnet’s plans for child obesity, the sugar tax and food marketing towards children, I’d advise giving it a watch.
I’ve managed to summarise some of the details that I found most interesting when I watched the footage, below:
Public Health England’s Research & recommendations –
- Three of Public Health England’s (PHE’s) main aims for reducing the UK’s sugar intake include
1.) A reduction of the amount of sugar in our food products e.g. reformulation
2.) Reduced food marketing and advertising to children, especially during family television and via adver-gaming
3.) To get a handle on food promotions in supermarkets
- A sugar tax is within PHE’s recommendations but it is NOT within the top three
Promotions on foods –
- One of the reasons tackling food product promotions was in PHE’s top three recommendations is because PHE’s report found that promotions in stores are heavily weighted to high sugar foods
- 40% of the foods we buy are on promotion and these are heavily balanced towards unhealthier options
- PHE’s research interestingly also showed that people buy foods at the same rate, even if they are on promotion e.g. if a pack of biscuits is buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOFF) a consumer will still come back and buy another pack of biscuits the next week.
- Ultimately this shows that BOGOF deals encourage consumers to simply eat more (e.g. twice as much)
- A Cochrane review also found that larger packages and foods at the end of the isle encourage an increase in sales of the more unhealthy products
Reducing costs of ‘healthier’ foods –
- Reducing the cost of healthy food might not work either, as PHE’s research suggests that people end up spending the money they have saved on less healthy options
A sugar tax –
- A sugar tax however does seem to be promising – retailers are constantly changing their prices and add or take off 30% regularly – this discount leads to changes in purchases
- In Mexico in the first year of their study they have seen a 6% reduction in purchases of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) since introducing the sugary drinks tax
- In answer to whether a sugar tax was ‘punishing the least advantaged members of society’ Alison Tedstone commented that tax wasn’t meant as a punishment but a nudge to help people make healthier choices
- Research so far seems to suggest that the higher the sugar tax, the greater affect it has on what consumers purchase
- The panel stressed however that the introduction of a sugar tax wouldn’t solve childhood obesity and that the scale of the problem is far bigger and needs far bolder steps than this alone
- The panel also discussed evidence and seemed to be agreed that in the UK we need to practice ‘action learning’ and try out some of the suggested methods to reduce obesity, even with little in the way of evidence. It was stated that no actions are more harmful than any attempts
- Susan Jebb highlighted that we need to act, even if we don’t have evidence BUT that we also need the evidence before we make policies for the UK
- It was mentioned that, although a useful resource, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) – which shows a leveling off of sugar in the diet – cannot necessarily be taken at face value
- There is a FOUR FOLD difference in the data on sugar purchased compared with data on sugar consumed from self-reported data in NDNS
- There was a heavy focus of attention on food marketing with the panel. It seems a wealth of evidence links food marketing with the consumption of unhealthy foods in children
- A big focus was on Adver-gaming, with some of the panel recommending that the blurred lines between marketing of products on this medium mean it should be banned completely
- PHE agree that more needs to be done to reduce advertising and marketing to children, especially up until 9.00pm and during family shows
- There was also somewhat a focus on food labeling during the panel, who seemed to agree that there have been some positive steps in food labeling, but that in the UK we are restricted by EU laws and also by the decision as to whether or not the UK stays within the EU.
- Calorie labelling seems to influence those that are interested in it. It does not affect those that don’t pay it any attention. This consensus seemed to be shared and was one of the reasons why PHE are not focusing on labels in their recommendations
- It was also suggested that 20% of our foods are now eaten outside of the home and that the out-of-home industry – such as the restaurant’s and food outlets – need to step up and take action too
To see the video yourself please press play on the video link below. Feel free to send in comments and suggestions yourself too.