Theresa May’s announcement yesterday – triggering a snap election in the UK on June 8th – was like hearing the starting gun in a race to secure the health of our nation. To me, there could be no clearer opportunity to make the UK’s future a healthy one than this election.
The UK’s vote to leave the EU divided our nation – it made clear how disconnected we’ve become as a society. It threw up for grabs many of the most important things – like the rules we have in place to make sure our kids get a healthy start, and our food is produced to a standard that’s the best in the world.
This election is a real opportunity to bring us back together. And cement a plan to give our kids a fair start and a future they can benefit from.
That’s why in the lead up to the election we’re asking every party to put childhood obesity policies at the center of their manifestos. If we don’t, we will not only lose generations to chronic disease and drain billions of pounds from the already limping NHS – but we will further divide our society, and cripple our ability to compete on the global stage.
Here are my recommendations as to what should be included in every manifesto:
SUGARY DRINKS TAX
Soft drinks are the largest source of sugar consumption for children and teenagers.
- The next government should recommit to the Sugar Tax as outlined in the 2017 Finance Bill.
Children are bombarded by unhealthy food products everywhere they turn. They’re encouraged to consume junk food in our shops, through their favourite TV shows and online games.
- Ban junk food TV adverts before 9pm
- Stop advertisers from targeting children online with products over the PHE limits for sugar, salt and saturated fat through content that blurs the line between advertising and games
- Reduce promotion and ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ incentives for products high in sugar, salt and saturated fat. And support more healthy options.
- Measure how many adverts an average child sees to establish targets for reduction
Labels are too unclear, preventing people from understanding what’s actually in the food they are choosing and eating
- Remove all health claims from junk food that could be misleading
- Make traffic light labelling mandatory on packs
- Make sugar quantities clear
- Put restrictions on portion sizes for all confectionery and sugary drinks
PHE has made clear what needs to be done, announcing targets for sugar reduction in March 2017
- Make PHE targets mandatory, so food and drink companies reduce excessive sugar in their products and the playing field is even
- Introduce penalties for those that don’t comply
A fair start in life is a fed start in life
- Create universal access to healthy breakfasts and lunches for all children across the UK
- Make sure all children receive an education that prepares them to make healthy food choices and to cook healthy food
EMPOWERING PARENTS TO HELP
Health starts at home, so let’s make sure parents have the tools and knowledge they need to help
- Extend the National Child Measurement Programme
- Regularly check height and weight for all kids under 11
- Make sure we stay on-track by publishing an annual report on progress to reduce child obesity
Obesity is one of the biggest issues facing our children’s generation, with huge consequences for our NHS and wider economy. We have the worst childhood obesity rates in Western Europe. It is unacceptable that, in 2017, diet poses a greater threat to UK families’ health and life expectancy than anything else. It’s also not right that obesity drains £16bn from the NHS each year and costs the economy more than the fire and police services combined.
I strongly believe that these actions need to be put into place to protect children’s – and our society’s – health in the UK, and I hope that each party will strongly consider them as they finalise their manifestos over the coming days.
If you agree, tweet your MP using #GE2017 #FoodRevolution and ask them to make sure that child health and obesity is included in their party’s manifesto.
Let’s make this election a healthy one!
Jamie O X