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Weight Management 2019

Time to introduce enforceable policies to change the food environment


Kawther Hashem

Campaign Lead, Action on Sugar

In the vast majority of cases, being overweight or obese is not an intentional choice, but a natural consequence of our obesogenic world. Relentless marketing and the availability of processed food, takeaways and huge portions all contribute towards this.

So, what can a cash-strapped government do on a macro-level to get the biggest impact for minimal spend?

They need to introduce enforceable policies to change the food environment. This means not shying away from policies that place the burden on the industry that is profiting while the NHS is struggling, even if accused of ‘nanny state-ism’.

Encouragement for healthier foods

Restricting advertising and promotion of unhealthy foods will push companies to improve their products so they can still market them. Widely known as ‘reformulation’, foods can be made healthier, and still be enjoyable to consumers.

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy (Sugar Tax) successfully encouraged wide reformulation, and our drinks now have 11% less sugar. We have been able to demonstrate that there is scope to apply this model to other categories, such as confectionery.

Forcing all food outlets to use clear nutrition labelling (just as the retail sector does with materials in clothing), is essential for customers to make an informed choice. The lack of transparency from many fast food chains, restaurants, cafes, and takeaway food on apps, means we have no way of knowing what is in our food.

A preventable problem

The use of food-tracking apps has the potential to help those manage their food intake and can be beneficial for patients and healthcare professionals, but this is a secondary means of dealing with a preventable problem.

The cost of obesity and Type 2 diabetes is set to overwhelm the NHS; with better guidance, policies and nutritional education we can remove unnecessary pressure on our health system.

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