12 January - 20 June 2016

Health Committee publish follow up report on Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan

The Health Committee have published a follow up report to the Government’s childhood obesity plan, which was published in August 2016. It notes that “the Government needs to take more robust action to tackle the impact of deep discounting and price promotions on the sales of unhealthy food and drink.”

The Health Committee have published a  follow up report to the Government’s childhood obesity plan, which was published in August 2016.  It notes that “the Government needs to take more robust action to tackle the impact of deep discounting and price promotions on the sales of unhealthy food and drink.”

Whilst the committee welcomes the introduction of a tiered levy on the manufacturers of sugary drinks and the progress made in reformulation, the report indicates that more needs to be done to tackle discounts and promotions. In brief the levy which will apply from April 2018 to producers and importers of soft drinks, means that “a lower tax rate will apply to drinks with a total sugar content of 5 grams or more per 100ml; a higher rate will apply to drinks with a sugar content of 8 grams or more per 100ml.” Fruit juice, vegetable juice and milk are not considered an added sugar ingredients. 

The Committee state that the effect of the cost of high-added sugar drinks should not be passed onto the consumer.  In the report it states that “Consumers of sugar-free products should not be forced to subside higher-sugar drinks, which would in effect be the case if manufacturers do not pass the price differentials between these products arising from the levy.” The report recommends that this should be regulated further.

The report also discusses Public Health England’s involvement in delivering, and reporting on the voluntary reformulation programme.  The Childhood Obesity Plan says “All sectors of the food and drinks industry will be challenged to reduce overall sugar across a range of products that contribute to children’s sugar intakes by at least 20% by 2020 including 5% in one year”.  The report indicates that PHE should also be setting out plans to reduce portion size, and implement the committee’s recommendation “of a cap on portion sizes, linked to the calories content of certain foods and drinks”.  They state that this should not be achieved voluntarily.  

Although they welcome the changes on advertising high fat, salt and sugar food and drink products in children’s media, they indicated that the advertising regulators have underestimated the challenge and urge that this is re-examined to take into account further restriction on advertising of these foods. 

The report also discusses the out of home sectors (restaurants, takeaways etc) noting that 18% of meals were eaten out of the home during the year ending March 2015.   This is a 5% increase on the previous year.  An earlier suggestion by the committee, which was rejected by the Government, was to “limit the proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in local areas.”  However the Government responded by arguing that “Local authorities already have a range of planning powers to create healthier environments in their local area, both through their local plan and in taking individual planning decisions.” In this current report the Committee are repeating their call to action for changes to planning legislation and are urging the Government to “provide evidence with other measures to reduce the impact of the out of home sector on childhood obesity.”

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