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Government is missing important opportunities to tackle childhood obesity

27 March 2017

The Government needs to take more robust action to tackle the impact of deep discounting and price promotions on the sales of unhealthy food and drink, says the Health Committee in its follow up report into childhood obesity.

Discounts and promotions on food and drink

Given the amount of our food and drink that is purchased on discounts and promotions, the Committee is urging the Government to follow the evidence-based advice to create "a level playing field". It was Industry representatives themselves, when giving evidence to the Committee, who explained that the current Government plans risk being undermined unless there is regulation. Retailers who act responsibly on discounting and promotions should not be put at a competitive disadvantage to those who do not.

The Government's plan to tackle childhood obesity was published in August 2016. Although the Health Committee welcomes the measures the Government has announced on the sugary drinks levy, they are extremely disappointed that several key areas for action that could have made the strategy more effective have not been included.

Call for Government to set clear goals

Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, says:

"We are extremely disappointed that the Government has rejected a number of our recommendations. These omissions mean that the current plan misses important opportunities to tackle childhood obesity. Vague statements about seeing how the current plan turns out are inadequate to the seriousness and urgency of this major public health challenge. The Government must set clear goals for reducing overall levels of childhood obesity as well as goals for reducing the unacceptable and widening levels of inequality."

The soft drinks industry levy 

The Committee also calls on the Government to ensure that manufacturers pass on the cost of the levy to ensure that there is a price differential at the point of sale between high- and low- or no-sugar drinks. The Committee feels that this would enhance the effect of the levy in encouraging low or no sugar choices and that failure to pass on the levy would result in consumers having to cross subsidise high-sugar products.

The Committee has welcomed the tiered levy and recognises that this has already started to drive reformulation and further recommends that it be extended to include milk-based drinks with added sugar.

Distribution of income from the levy

The report welcomes the Government's positive response to the Committee's recommendation that the proceeds of the soft drinks industry levy should be directed towards measures to improve children's health including through increasing access to school sports and to breakfast clubs. The Committee will follow up how the income from the levy is distributed, including the ways in which this can help to reduce the inequalities arising from childhood obesity. 

Further information

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