On the 18th of August, the UK Government unveiled its Action Plan on childhood obesity for the next 10 years, in light of the worrying preoccupying situation with nearly a third of children aged 2-15 overweight or obese in the UK.
The strategy is structured around a two-fold aim: 1. Encourage the food and drink industry to reduce sugar levels in their products and 2. Promote healthier food consumption and physical activity amongst primary school children.
It particularly envisions to:
- Introduce a tax on the soft drinks industry to reduce the amount of sugar in beverages. The revenues from the levy will be “invested in programmes to reduce obesity and encourage physical activity and balanced diets for school age children” including further investment in sport schemes and school healthy breakfast clubs. Producers and importers will have two years to lower the sugar levels in their products and will not be fined if they take action to this aim.
- Ensure a 20% sugar reduction in food products by 2020 (including a 5% reduction in the first year) through the launch by Public Health England of a broad sugar reduction programme to remove sugar from the products children eat most, reduce portion size or give incentives to purchase lower sugar alternatives. The programme will apply to all sectors of industry (retailers, manufacturers and the out of home sector) and to all foods and drinks, with a particular focus on those “that make the largest contributions to children’s sugar intakes: breakfast cereals, yoghurts, biscuits, cakes, confectionery, morning goods (e.g. pastries), puddings, ice cream and sweet spreads”. Four-year, category-specific targets for these categories will be published in March 2017.
- Support business innovation for healthier products: the Government’s Innovate UK ran a collaborative R&D competition worth £10 million for research to stimulate new processes and products to increase the availability of healthier food choices for consumers and open up new markets.
- Review the nutrient profile model to reflect the last dietary recommendations made by the UK Government
- Ensure healthy food options are available in the public sector
- Ensure clear food labelling
- Improve sport and physical activity programmes in schools
Under the plan, Public Health England will monitor the progress of the industry, and publish reports every six months.
Alongside the programme, work to reduce salt and saturated fat levels will continue and from 2017, the programme will be extended to include targets to reduce total calories in a wider range of products.
The full Action Plan is available here.