Watered down childhood obesity legislation?

Watered down childhood obesity legislation?

Childhood obesity. It is something we have spoken a lot about before, mainly because it is a topic that too many people feel uncomfortable talking about. In some ways this is understandable. It seems inappropriate to tell somebody that their child is overweight, and even more difficult to tell them that they aren’t helping. 

That’s why a lot of people in the community were glad to hear that the government were putting into place policy with the aim of solely tackling childhood obesity. But yesterday’s revelations appear to suggest it might have been too good to be true. Health experts, supermarket bosses and MPs alike have come out to criticise the government, with the British Medical Association (BMA) suggesting that promises aren’t being kept.

The government’s plan primarily focuses on the sugar element of food and drink, particularly those that are targeted at children. Over the next year the industry was expected to cut 5% of sugar, with 20% cuts expected over the next four. Along with the nutritional aspect, primary schools are expected to take a more serious role, delivering at least half-an-hour of exercise a day.

The sugar tax, which has received a great deal of press, forms a large part of the plan, with the revenue from the tax expected to fund school sports when it comes into force in 2018. In reality, the burden of this tax is expected to fall on working class families, which could see the least-off in society disproportionately funding the exercise of those that are better off.

If you would expect anyone to be against these sort of initiatives, it would be supermarkets. Their focus on the profit margin would lead you to think they want to maximise profits and allow parents to decide what is best for their children, not the government.But yesterday we saw the CEO of Sainsbury’s, Mike Coupe, criticising the regime for its lack in severity, suggesting that more needs to be done.

All sorts of aspects of the strategy have already been dropped, before it has even got going. As prices of fruit and vegetable continue to rise, buy-one-get-one-free promotions on unhealthy food are frequently offered in our supermarkets. The way in which these foods are advertised was also to set to see an overhaul but talk of that has cooled as well. This alleged watering down has brought into question the power that the food industry to lobby the government and, as a result, influencing the health and fitness levels of the youngest in our society.

The fact that this is making headline news is positive. It means that it is still on the mind of the public and that people are interested. It will also make the government think twice about watering down any positive legislation to satisfy industry. But we can’t expect the government to do everything. Unhealthy food will always be available and parents must take responsibility in making sure that their children are living as healthy a life as possible.

Ollie Lawrence
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