Measures to halve childhood obesity announced

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a range of new measures to cut childhood obesity in half by 2030.

Following on from the first chapter of the childhood obesity plan, the new proposals from the Department for Health and Social Care include introducing clear and consistent calorie labelling on menus in food outlets, such as restaurants, cafes and takeaways, to help parents make informed choices about the foods their children are eating, as well as preventing stores from displaying unhealthy food at checkouts - thereby contesting 'pester power' on last-minute, buy-one-get-one-free offers.

Whilst challenging the sale of high-energy, caffeine-laden drinks to children, Hunt is also urging the food and drinks industry to recognise the harm that adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt can cause - suggesting a consultation on new online advertising restrictions.

The measures also outline plans for every secondary school in the country to adopt a daily 'active mile' initiative, part-funded by Living Street's Walk to School project, as well as the launch of a three-year programme for the government to work alongside local authority partners to find and highlight areas of best practice and show what can be achieved within existing powers.

Hunt 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."

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “These measures – if translated into legislation and action – have the potential to transform the health of our nation, and begin turning the tables on the Type 2 diabetes time bomb we currently sit upon. In particular, we welcome the proposed commitment to clear, consistent calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and takeaways. Research tells us that having this information available helps consumers make healthier choices, so this could, in practice, be an incredibly positive step in the right direction.

“With one in three children either overweight or obese before they leave primary school, it’s clear that bold, decisive action needs to be taken. Being overweight as a child can significantly increase your risk of developing serious conditions like Type 2 diabetes in the future. “The challenge now will be ensuring that the voices of all those who champion making the healthy choice the easy choice are listened to and for these commitments to become a reality. We hope this second chapter in the Childhood Obesity Plan is the start of a new chapter in our approach to tackling obesity – and in turn Type 2 diabetes – across the UK.”

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