Labour will next week publish a Policy Review document entitled ‘Children, food and obesity’, on tackling child obesity to improve the nation’s health. The paper looks at ideas being discussed as part of Labour's Policy Review including new maximum permitted levels of fat, sugar and salt in food aimed at children.
This new document comes as new research, published in recent weeks by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), shows that in the UK 26.6 per cent of girls and 22.7 per cent of boys are considered overweight or obese. Meanwhile, the National Child Measurement Programme last month reported that one third of children in England are either overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. The level of obesity in today’s school children puts them at a greater risk of developing diabetes and cancer.
The paper highlights some of the key options for a new approach which could help parents improve their children’s diets and considers whether the introduction of legal limits on sugar, fat and salt would be beneficial.
Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:
“The findings of the OECD should shock us out of our complacency. It is clear that the current voluntary approach is not working. We need to open our minds to new approaches in tackling child obesity.
“Labour wants to lead this debate. That is why we are asking the public and experts if new limits for sugar, fats and salts would be the right approach.
“Like all parents, I have bought products like cereals and fruit drinks, marketed as more healthy, that contained higher sugar levels than expected. I don’t think that any parent would be comfortable with their child eating something that is 40 per cent sugar.
“The Government has failed to come up with a convincing plan to tackle this challenge. If we fail to act on the OECD’s warning we are storing up huge problems for the country and the NHS in the long term. That is why Labour is calling for new thinking and why we’re initiating this discussion.”
Professor Gabriel Scally, former Regional Director of Public Health for the South West at the Department of Health, said:
"The continued rise in childhood obesity is an urgent call to action and must not be ignored. I applaud the Labour Party for tackling the issue of the foodstuffs filling our children with the empty calories that fuel obesity. Helping parents protect and promote the future health of our children is exactly what we need to be doing."