New measures to halve the number of obese children by 2030 have been announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Building on the first chapter of the childhood obesity plan, the new measures include proposals to counter ‘pester power’ by preventing stores from displaying unhealthy food at checkouts or including it in buy-one-get-one-free deals.
The Department of Health and Social Care will consult on introducing clear, consistent calorie labelling on menus in restaurants, cafés and takeaways, so parents can make an informed choice about what their families are eating. The department will also consult on banning the sale of harmful, caffeine-laden energy drinks to children – a quarter of 6- to 9-year-olds consume these energy drinks, which can have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee or more.
The government is calling on industry to recognise the harm that adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt can cause. It will consult on introducing new TV and online advertising restrictions to prevent children from being targeted by these unhealthy products, and to incentivise companies to reduce the sugar and calories in the products they sell. This could include extending the current advertising watershed and considering limiting the number of unhealthy food adverts shown during children’s programmes up to 9pm.
The second chapter of the plan also promotes a new national ambition for every primary school to adopt a daily ‘active mile’ initiative, such as the Daily Mile. This is supported by £620,000 funding for Living Street’s Walk to School project, as well as £1 million to support the Department for Transport’s Bikeability cycling training programme, expected to fund an additional 25,000 training places.
Government will launch a 3-year programme to work closely with local authority partners to show what can be achieved within existing powers with a particular focus on inequalities, finding solutions to barriers and sharing best practice with others.
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, said:
Parents want what is best for their children, but keeping them healthy and active can be difficult.
It is near impossible to shield children from exposure to unhealthy foods. Parents are asking for help – we know that over three-quarters of parents find offers for sugary sweets and snacks at checkouts annoying. It’s our job to give power to parents to make healthier choices, and to make their life easier in doing so.
The cost of obesity – both on individual lives and our NHS – is too great to ignore. Today we are taking steps to ensure that by 2030, children from all backgrounds have the help they need for a healthier, more active start in life.
Steve Brine, Public Health Minister, said:
One in three children are now overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. Dangerous overconsumption, combined with reduced activity, is having a catastrophic effect on our children’s health, limiting their potential and putting them at risk of a shorter life.
We all have a responsibility to act before we lose a generation of young people to this entirely avoidable epidemic. We can’t afford to waste time, which is why we’re committing to halve obesity in the next 12 years with bold new action.