Health Policy
Government poised to announce new measures to curb obesity

By David Forrest - Integrated Care Journal

The Prime Minister is expected to make an announcement next week outlining new measures to curb obesity. Of the measures, a ban on Junk food advertising before the watershed is widely expected.

The proposals which were put forward, but not enacted, by Mr Johnson's predecessor Theresa May in 2018 are expected to be revived.

Among the measures, Mrs May had consulted on a ban on junk food adverts. There could also be some new requirements for restaurants to show calorie labels on menus.

These moves come amid growing evidence that people who are overweight and those who are obese are 44 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively, more likely to be at risk of critical illness from Covid-19.

The move marks a change of stance from Mr Johnson who had previously described his views on tackling obesity as "libertarian”. However, his time in intensive care during his treatment of Covid-19 is speculated to have contributed to his change in approach.

Speaking during a visit to a GP surgery in east London, Mr Johnson said that while he was not normally one for "nannying", the country did need to lose weight to protect from a second spike.

Health and Social Care Minister Helen Whatley, meanwhile, told BBC Breakfast that while she could not comment on the reports, an announcement was due “imminently”.

The rumoured changes have already invoked a large array of comment from experts and the wider public. Tam Fry, Chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "The consequence of obesity is so great that risks and daring measures have to be put in place. ”

Mr Fry also called for the sugar tax on soft drinks to be extended to other products.

However, Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive of the Advertising Association has told the  Times Radio “The evidence is pretty weak for the direct connection between advertising and obesity levels. ” 

Mr Woodford believes that “[junk food advertising] is already restricted and further restrictions won’t do the trick. ”

Ministers are still finalising the detail of some anti-obesity measures, such as whether to require more prominent labelling of food and drinks with high levels of sugar or salt.

The proposals have been widely resisted by advertisers and commercial broadcasters. However, it is thought Mr Johnson is likely to push ahead with advertising restrictions and is considering banning in-store promotions of unhealthy foods.


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