End junk food marketing to kids and protect future generations
Cancer Research UK’s Shaun Walsh is calling for Government to push forward with consulting & implementing in full, Childhood Obesity Plan: Chapter 2 as promised, without further delay.
Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK, linked to 13 types of cancer. Childhood obesity is at crisis levels, with 30% of children in the UK overweight or obese. We know that children are five times more likely to be obese as an adult, so it’s crucial we tackle this crisis today to reduce their cancer risk tomorrow. It’s also estimated that obesity costs the NHS £6.1bn a year, an expenditure that could be best spent elsewhere.
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) believes that tackling unhealthy environmental factors that lead to poor diets and excessive weight can help reduce the risk of cancer in the UK. There have already been successes in this area including the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. Public Health England’s ongoing calorie and sugar reduction programmes have the potential to make a similar impact too. However, there is still a way to go.
That’s why we’ve been calling for a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising since June 2016. There is ever increasing evidence of the impact of advertising on children’s dietary habits, including our Under Pressure report. It found that recalling one extra junk food advert a day could lead to the consumption of an extra 18,000 calories a year – something you may have seen on our quiz style posters around Westminster in January.
The Government’s updated Childhood Obesity Plan published last June was therefore particularly welcome. It made bold commitments to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and to consult on several issues to inform how it would tackle the unhealthy, or “obesogenic”, environment we live in. This includes the implementation of a 9pm watershed on TV advertising for foods high in fat, salt and sugar, and similar protections online.
This consultation was due before the end of 2018 and while we know Government is still committed to its release, there’s still no date for publication. This delay is challenging. Prevention was a welcome key pillar of Government’s NHS Long-Term Plan but the longer the consultation is delayed, the longer it will take to meet these ambitions.
The Mayor of London’s ban on junk food advertising across the Transport for London estate, launched this month, is a bold first step that listens to evidence and goes some way to creating a healthier environment. Now, Government must follow suit.
They must not lose sight of the importance of this issue. We must learn from other public health harms like tobacco and gambling – Government has a duty of care to act and should reflect on evidence from health experts, not just those with commercial interests.
CRUK is calling for Government to push forward with consulting and implementing in full, Childhood Obesity Plan: Chapter 2 as promised, without further delay. This will support parents and children make healthier choices, reduce pester power and play a role in preventing cancer by better protecting future generations.