England is “nowhere near” obesity goal, says CMO report
In her parting report, the CMO has called for action against junk food, including a ban on eating and drinking on public transport, in a bid to tackle obesity.
The government should put children’s health before companies’ profits, said Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dame Sally Davies, in her parting report.
“Today’s children are drowning in a flood of unhealthy food and drink options, compounded by insufficient opportunities for being active,” she said, with around a third of children being classified as obese before the age of 11.
Here are some of the recommendations in the report:
- Bans on promoting and advertising junk food
- A ban on eating and drinking on public transport to discourage snacking whilst travelling (with exceptions for drinking fresh water and eating and drinking for medical conditions)
- Price rises through VAT changes on junk foods high in salt, sugar or fat, with the option of plain packaging as there is for cigarettes
- Free water at all food outlets, transport stations and public sector buildings
- Regular car-free weekends to promote physical activity
- Extending the sugar tax to milk-based drinks
- Capping calories.
“It is now pretty normal to see people eating as they walk up the street. A couple of decades ago, it was not. Portion sizes have crept up and £300 million a year is spent on advertising unhealthy food and drink,” said Davies.
There are 1.2 million children in the UK currently in need of medical help for clinical obesity. As many as 90,000 adolescents may be eligible for bariatric surgery – but fewer than 10 stomach-shrinking operations are done on this age group every year.
Food companies have been urged to cut the sugar in their products, but could still do more, said the report. Public Health England reported that food manufacturers had reduced sugar by 2.9 percent in the last year, after 2 percent the previous year, but this is against a target of 20 percent by 2020.
Katharine Jenner, at Action on Sugar, said Davies’ “brave call for bold action is a beacon of hope” and that there was an urgent need to restrict promotions and marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, which can only be achieved through legislation.
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “Prof Dame Sally Davies has done more than anyone to promote the health of the nation over a decade as CMO. Her parting report is no different and we will study it closely and act on the evidence.”