The Government must change the narrative around childhood obesity to make it clear that this is everyone’s business, say the Health and Social Care Committee in their report into childhood obesity.
The committee have recommended the banning of junk food adverts before the 9pm television watershed as well as a rash of other measures including banning the use of cartoon characters and celebrities to promote unhealthy treats, restricting discount promotions and stopping retailers from lining checkouts with chocolate and sweets.
The Committee calls for targets to improve rates of breastfeeding, to combat childhood obesity, and urge a full and timely implementation of all of the school-centred measures contained in the original 2016 Child Obesity Action Plan.
Local authorities, they say, need to be allowed to limit the proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in their areas and the prevalence of HFSS food and drink billboard advertising near schools. Existing powers are not sufficient and they call for health to be made an objective within the planning system in order to give local authorities the tools they need to make effective changes at local level.
Chair of the Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, says:
“Children are becoming obese at an earlier age and staying obese for longer. Obesity rates are highest for children from the most disadvantaged communities and this unacceptable health inequality has widened every year since records began. The consequences for these children are appalling and this can no longer be ignored.
We want to see a whole systems approach and for local authorities to be given the powers they need to reduce childhood obesity in their communities. Health needs to be made an objective within the planning and licensing system.
Government needs to further help reduce childhood obesity by introducing tougher restrictions on the marketing and advertising of junk food, including by bringing in a 9pm advertising watershed. It should also act to protect children by banning the offers and displays that push high volume sales and impulse buying of junk food and drink. I welcome the sugary drinks levy that has already played a vital role in driving reformulation and call for this to be extended to milky drinks which contain added sugar.”