According to health advocates, the United Kingdom’s plan to fight childhood obesity is ineffectual and will not succeed in tackling the problem.
A sugar tax was announced by George Osborne this March, but it will not be applied for two years. Manufacturers that reduce the amount of sugar in their sweets by 20% will be exempt from the tax. The money from the tax will go to fund breakfast clubs and sports.
Schools will be asked to give their students an extra 30 minutes per day of physical activity, and parents and other caregivers will be encouraged to get kids moving for another 30 minutes.
Public Health England (PHE) would also set targets for sugar content per 100g and calorie caps for certain products, reports the BBC. They will report on whether the industry is complying with the scheme and if insufficient progress is made the government may switch tactics.
Additionally, a voluntary “healthy schools rating scheme” will be implemented during school inspections.
PHE will monitor the progress over the next four years, reports Johnson D. of the Science World Report.
Public Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said:
“Initiatives like this will make a huge difference to children’s health and fitness and we hope our new measures on school sport will help to create future Team GB Olympians.”
However, the strategy doesn’t contain either of the two measures that Public Health England (PHE) has said would do the most to cure the childhood obesity epidemic. PHE supported the sugar tax, but said that more important measures would include banning price-cuts of junk food and eliminating the promotion of unhealthy food to children.
Critics have compared it to the responsibility deal that reigned through David Cameron’s premiership, which was widely considered a failure. Food and beverage companies were encouraged to pledge to make their food healthier, but were subject to very little monitoring, reports Sarah Boseley of the Guardian.
Professor Graham MacGregor, the chairperson of Action on Sugar and Consensus Action on Salt and Health, said:
“After the farce of the responsibility deal where Andrew Lansley made the food industry responsible for policing themselves, it is sad to see that this is just another imitation of the same responsibility deal take two.”
Even Mike Coupe, the chief executive of supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, says there should be compulsory targets for sugar and mandatory traffic light labeling of products.
TV chef Jamie Oliver said he was “in shock” because the plan was so “disappointing.” He believes that more of the changes should be mandatory rather than voluntary.
According to the Associated Press, the British population has one of the most significant obesity problems in Western Europe. 62% of adults and 31% of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight.