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Press releases

BANT calls for Government to improve, not remove ‘Obesity Strategy’

British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT)

3 min read Partner content

Latest sign that Truss has no appetite for health policies

BANT calls for action to reduce the consumption of ultra-processed junk foods, which underpin the worsening obesity epidemic in the UK, and renews calls for meaningful policy, not procrastination in response to government plans to scrap their obesity strategy.

BANT has once again called for the Government to address the flaws in the current strategy targeting foods high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS). The plan, which failed to address the use of fructose and modified starches in ultra-processed foods, which are as detrimental as simple sugars, (3) is facing the axe in the latest public health and healthcare measure by the Truss administration. However, BANT believes it is dangerous territory to move from having an inadequate strategy to no strategy at all. This U-turn by the government would not only further delay an already urgent intervention to a UK public health crisis, it would also waste the considerable investment spent so far on the 2021 National Food Strategy, which sought to address obesity, the junk food cycle, health inequalities and access to real whole foods.

The Treasury review ordered by the new government is set to scrap the strategy inherited from Boris Johnson, restricting the promotion of junk food, in light of the soaring cost of living, as well as the lost tax revenue to the public purse. Truss’s focus is quoted as a drive to cut red tape and burdens on business. However, it is the view of BANT that public health is being compromised to placate industry interests, choosing the easiest, least responsible option rather than addressing the underlying drivers of hunger and poverty being experienced by households up and down the country.

BANT CEO, Satu Jackson called on health secretary, Thérèse Coffey, to “make healthy food affordable if the cost-of-living crisis is truly government priority.” Junk food does nothing to ameliorate hunger in households struggling to put food on the table. In fact, research shows that ultra-processed foods impair appetite control (1) and make people feel hungrier, exacerbating the problem, and ultimately driving people to spend more money they don’t have, on food, or worse still go without.

Truss is quoted as saying she wants to focus on “cutting NHS waiting lists” and that “people don’t want the government telling them what to eat”. BANT draws attention to the fact that the current social annual cost of obesity in the UK is estimated to be around £58 billion, equivalent to around 3% of the 2020 UK GDP (2) including cost of obesity-related disease and strain on the health system. BANT continues to actively advocate for healthy food choices with their ‘Food for your Health’ campaign, launched to tackle the rise in diet-induced illness. Help people make healthier choices with policy that ensures healthy foods are affordable and accessible to all.

 


REFERENCES:

  1. Stevenson, R. Francis, H. et al. Hippocampal-dependent appetitive control is impaired by experimental exposure to a Western-style diet. Published:19 February 2020https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.191338 
  2. https://www.frontier-economics.com/uk/en/news-and-articles/articles/article-i9130-the-annual-social-cost-of-obesity-in-the-uk/#
  3. https://bant.org.uk/2022/01/21/the-truth-about-sugars-and-non-nutritive-sweeteners/

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