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Sponsorship and ad bans needed to tackle child obesity

Coalition of medical experts and charities warns epidemic will cripple NHS

Mark Gould

Friday, 05 May 2017

Companies that make unhealthy foods should be banned from sponsoring sporting events, and government must take tougher action to reduce the amounts of sugar, salt and fat in everyday food, according to a coalition of health organisations.

The Obesity Health Alliance, which represents 41 organisations including royal medical and nursing colleges, public health and charities, says an incoming government must make tackling the UK's obesity epidemic it’s a priority or the NHS will be crippled by the burden of ill-health it causes.

Its 10-point manifesto, launched today, highlights that the next government must take tougher action to reduce sugar, saturated fat and salt in everyday foods, and fully implement and evaluate the so-called sugar tax - the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

It wants the government to "close existing loopholes to restrict children’s exposure to junk food marketing across all the media they are exposed to" which should include updating current broadcast regulations with a 9pm watershed on advertising of food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt to protect children during family viewing time. 

“In addition rules should be extended to cover sponsorship of sports and family attractions and marketing communications in schools,” its manifesto says.

The Alliance points to studies which show the number of overweight and obese children is at its highest level ever, and obesity is estimated to cost the NHS at least £5.1 billion a year.

It says the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and targets to reduce sugar from foods commonly eaten by children, are "positive steps" which could significantly contribute to creating a healthier environment. But it says this momentum must be continued by whoever forms the next government.

Professor John Wass from the Royal College of Physicians said: “Our 41 organisations collectively represent all spheres of the health arena. We have come together to issue a stark warning to the next government that they simply can’t afford to ignore the spiralling obesity epidemic. Without strong measures to tackle obesity we are condemning our NHS to failure.”

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