News | Published July 25 2020

PM to outline anti-obesity measures next week

Prime minister Boris Johnson will outline new measures to crack down on obesity in the coming week.

The exact measures are yet to be confirmed but it is likely to include a ban on adverts for junk food being aired on TV before the watershed of 21:00.

The move may also include a ban on online adverts for unhealthy food and limits on promotions for unhealthy foods and snacks in stores.

Some restaurants which do not clearly indicate on menus the number of calories contained in their dishes may be made to do so.

Former prime minister Theresa May had consulted on whether to restrict online advertising on sugary and fatty foods and issue a ban on TV advertising for unhealthy food prior to 21:00, but the proposal was not followed through with action after backlash from broadcasters and advertisers.

However, Johnson could press on with introducing restrictions despite opposition.

It represents a real change in tone from the prime minister, who has been critical of levies being placed on foods that are high in salt, fat and sugar content.

It is thought that the prime minister’s experience in intensive care when undergoing treatment for Covid-19 has helped change his mind, with evidence suggesting that individuals deemed overweight or obese are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill when contracting the virus.

The NHS deems most adults with a body mass index [BMI] of 25 to 29.9 to be overweight, while those with a BMI of 30 to 39.9 are considered obese.

Speaking at a GP surgery in east London, Johnson said that healthier lifestyles will help protect the protect the population from a second wave of Covid-19 deaths.

He said: "Obesity is one of the real co-morbidity factors. Losing weight is one of the ways you can reduce your own risk from coronavirus."

The details of some measures, such as requiring more clear labelling of food and drinks with high sugar and salt content, are yet to be finalised.

Faversham and mid Kent MP Helen Whately, a health and social care minister, told the BBC: "Particularly with Covid, you are at greater risk of getting it, at greater risk of complications, at greater risk of sadly dying from Covid if you are overweight.

"As it is such an important health challenge we have to take it on, and the PM is committed to making sure we tackle obesity and... people live healthy lives."

Whately added that the announcement on new measures to curb obesity would be imminent.

National Obesity Forum chairman Tam Fry said that new and “daring” measures were warranted given the risks associated with obesity, and called for the sugar tax on soft drinks to be extended to other food products.

However, there has been some backlash from the industry, with Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer of the Food and Drink Federation, calling the move a “slap in the face” to the sector.

Rycroft said: "It is going to ban promotions of food ten days before the chancellor launches the biggest food promotion the country has ever seen.

"It is going to put enormous costs on the advertising industry and on broadcasters at a time when the economy is in quite a tenuous situation."

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
July 25 2020

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