The Jamie Oliver - Written evidence (FPO0075)

 

The Jamie Oliver Group is working to halve child obesity by 2030. We believe that Government action is a really important catalyst to reach this goal. We’re pleased to see the work of this Committee.

 

2) What are some of the key ways in which diet (including food insecurity) impacts on public health? Has sufficient progress been made on tackling childhood obesity and, if not, why not?

 

2.1 In the last 3 years, the Government has published three versions of its child obesity action plan. On paper, this action plan represents a world-leading approach to tackling child obesity. Unfortunately, on paper is exactly where those policies have stayed. With almost none of these policies having yet been translated into actual legislation or regulation.

 

2.2 Right now, if you’re a kid living in a deprived area in England, you’re more than twice as likely to have obesity. This is a tale of two postcodes – and the gap between kids’ health in our richest and poorest areas is growing. This doesn’t seem fair. Our high streets, schools, hospitals and supermarket shelves are still bursting with unhealthy options. Streets are flooded with fast food outlets, all of which have special ‘afterschool offers’ on price promotions; cereal aisles are overflowing with hidden sugars positioned right at kids’ eye level; and we have no way of being certain than schools are meeting the School Food Standards. We need to redesign these places to close the floodgates and put kids’ health at their heart.

 

4) What role can local authorities play in promoting healthy eating in their local populations, especially among children and young people, and those on lower incomes? How effectively are local authorities able to fulfil their responsibilities to improve the health of people living in their areas? Are you aware of any existing local authority or education initiatives that have been particularly successful (for example, schemes around holiday hunger, providing information on healthy eating, or supporting access to sport and exercise)?

 

4.1 We need to give local authorities the power to take more action against junk food marketing outdoors. Currently, kids and their parents are walking past junk food ads on telephone boxes next to parks, on A-boards near nurseries, and on the sides of buses. In fact, applications for telephone boxes, which companies use as advert space, have risen 900%![1] Local authorities need greater powers to approve or block outdoor advertising campaigns. They also need the power to impose fines and other penalties immediately in the event of a breach.

 

4.2 Local councils could apply Discretionary business rate relief for healthy businesses. Rate relief can be given to businesses by the government and Local Councils to achieve certain objectives. For example, the national government encourages specific appropriate discounts for charities, small businesses, vacant buildings etc. Oldham Council provides business rate relief for small businesses and food retailers (including shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants).

 

4.3 Local councils could also use tools including Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) to restrict the development of fast foods close to schools- the London Borough of Waltham Forest adopted an SPD to deny planning permission to new fast food outlets within 400 metres of schools. They could also use Section 106 Agreements (Section 75 or Section 69 in Scotland) or ‘planning obligations’ - the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham introduced an SPD that calls on Section 106 to levy a £1,000 charge on hot-food takeaway businesses when they are granted planning permission, and assigns the proceeds exclusively to the Borough’s fight against obesity e.g. improvements to the walking and cycling environment. Local councils could also specify food shops as ‘essential retail’, for example to prevent a greengrocer being replaced by a hairdresser. The London Borough of Hackney’s Core Policy strategy 13: Town Centres states: ‘Shops that provide essential day-to-day needs for the local community such as baker, butcher, greengrocer, grocer, specialist ethnic food shop, post office, dispensing chemists and primary care facilities, launderette, newsagent and post office in the borough’s town, district and local shopping centres as well as shopping parades and corner shops will be protected from changes of use away from retail.’ Planning could be linked to a specific businesses not a building, so when a fast food outlet closes a new one does not automatically get planning permission for the building. Other uses of planning and licensing should be considered.

 

7) What impact do food outlets (including supermarkets, delivery services, or fast food outlets) have on the average UK diet? How important are factors such as advertising, packaging, or product placement in influencing consumer choice, particularly for those in lower income groups?

 

7.1 The greater the number of unhealthy food outlets there are in a neighbourhood, the greater the rates of childhood obesity[2]. And we know that these outlets are concentrated in deprived areas. In fact, deprived areas such as Blackpool and parts of Manchester and Liverpool have five times more fast food outlets than affluent areas, a survey suggests.[3]

 

7.2 The total number of takeaway outlets in the UK has increased by over one third since 2010, with 8,563 takeaway outlets in London (92.7 per 100,000 of the population).[4] Fried chicken shops are doing especially well, up 36% between 2003 and 2008.[5] Kids value these fast food outlets not only for the products they sell, but as social spaces where they feel welcome and can gather to socialise.[6] And takeaway consumption is associated with a greater increase in total calorie consumption for children in lower socio-economic groups than children in higher socio-economic groups.[7] Evidence suggests that calorie labelling can help reduce the number of calories that people consume, but at the moment, many of these places have no information about what’s in their products.[8]

 

7.3 We also need clear, consistent and mandatory labelling on food and drink products. Only 41% of people living in the lowest income households find food labelling easy to read.[9] Diabetes UK found that nine in 10 people agree that traffic-light nutrition labelling helps us make informed decisions about the food we buy.[10] Why don’t we have world-leading nutritional information on every product, to help and empower parents and kids alike?

 

7.4 Price promotions and product positioning in store should be used to put healthier products in the spotlight. The Sun conducted an investigation where it put a GoPro on seven-year-old Annie to see how supermarkets “stack the odds against parents” by putting appealing products at kids’ eye level and have “tempted kids with sweets and junk food at checkouts for years”.[11]

 

8) Do you have any comment to make on how the food industry might be encouraged to do more to support or promote healthy and sustainable diets? Is Government regulation an effective driver of change in this respect?

 

8.1 It’s official - the Soft Drinks Industry Levy is working - it has reduced the sugar in sugary drinks by a fantastic 28%! And it has removed a whopping 45 million kilograms of sugar each year from the industry since 2016. One in four people in the lowest socio-economic groups, and one in five of higher-income groups, say the drinks levy has encouraged them to to swap to lower-sugar options.[12] The Levy should be extended to include high-sugar milky drinks, and we should continue to ring-fence the funds for children’s health. In addition to the PE & Sports Premium, we should put half of the money raised by the levy into a health premium that can be used by schools to improve the diet of their pupils (through things like installing kitchens and drinking fountains, buying equipment to deliver food education and breakfast clubs). To be eligible to receive this money, schools would have to show they’re meeting the School Food Standards – at the moment there’s no way for parents to know whether schools are meeting this government requirement.

 

8.2. The Soft Drinks Industry Levy is working a lot better than Public Health England’s voluntary sugar reformulation programme, which has only reduced sugar by an average of 2.9% across all products, with the only positive exceptions being yoghurts and cereals. This leaves us a long way off track from their 20% goal by 2020. The results emphasise the need for more effective regulatory measures

 

when it comes to protecting kids’ health - like the 9pm watershed on junk food advertising on TV and online.

 

30 September 2019

4

 


[1] https://www.localgov.co.uk/Councils-call-for-crackdown-on-Trojan-telephone-boxes/44622

[2]  (Black et al, 2014)

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-44642027

[4] Public Health England, 2018. Density of fast food outlets in England by local authority and ward: data tables and metadata. London, PHE

[5] (The Guardian, 2011)

[6] 45 Thompson C et al, 2018. Fast-food, everyday life and health. Appetite 128: 7–13

[7] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/health-and-social-care-committee/childhood-obesity/written/81722.pdf

[8] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/diabetes-uk-calls-on-government-to-act-on-calorie-labelling-plans

[9] https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/caloriewisepaper.pdf

[10] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/consistent-food-labelling-for-all

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/jul/25/large-rise-takeaway-shops-highlights-dominance-fast-food-deprived-areas-england

[12] Brown, R. (2019) “Reformulated: the soft drinks that have slashed sugar and boosted sales”, available at:

https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/soft-drinks/reformulated-the-soft-drinks-that-have-slashed-sugar-and-boosted-sales-/592676.article

Addy, R. (2019) “Soft drinks levy does industry a favour”, Food Manufacture, available at:

https://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Article/2019/04/15/Soft-drinks-levy-does-industry-a-favour