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Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine - Barts and The London

Experts urge PM to meet previous obesity plan commitments and implement junk food advertising restrictions

Ahead of imminent government plans to address obesity in the UK, the Wolfson Institute’s Action on Sugar and Action on Salt groups have led 47 other health charities and eminent researchers in a letter urging the Prime Minister to meet the Government’s previous commitments made under the Childhood Obesity Prevention plan. A “Scorecard” analysis compiled by Action on Sugar/Action on Salt shows that many of the previously agreed recommendations, including calorie reduction and taxation of unhealthy foods, have been side lined.

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The experts warn that unless restrictions on marketing and advertising food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar are implemented, across all media platforms  including TV, radio, online, social media, apps, in-game, cinema, and digital outdoor advertising such as billboards, the government’s new obesity plan will not deliver the necessary impact on public health. A government consultation which closed in June 2019 demonstrated that this marketing restriction policy would be likely to benefit both adults and children due to reduced exposure and pester power, have a mutual impact for BAME communities, offer an increased benefit for the more socially deprived, and encourage reformulation by the food and drink industry to improve the nutritional quality of their products so that they are healthy enough to advertise before a 9pm watershed.

Katharine Jenner of Action on Sugar and Salt, says: “Marketeers had the opportunity to voluntarily cease unhealthy food and drink advertising during this pandemic, yet they continued to pump out adverts for fast food delivery companies, chocolates, sweets and more. In 2019, for over 80% of the ‘less healthy’ products advertised before 9pm there was a healthier alternative within the same company that could have been promoted instead. The time has now passed for being soft on industries that ‘feed’ into the obesity crisis and profit from a culture of encouraging lazing, gazing and grazing.”