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NEWS

COVID kickstarts UK obesity strategy

Little boy and girl watching TV

The UK Government announced on Monday [27 July 2020] its strategy to tackle obesity, including restrictions on marketing of foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt in supermarkets, on TV and online.

The Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives strategy document says the COVID-19 pandemic has given Public Health England ‘a wake-up call’, and it plans to use this time to ‘kick start our health, get active and eat better’.

Research shows being overweight or obese puts people at greater risk of developing serious complications or dying from COVID-19.

Unhealthy food marketing targeted

Among seven action points in the strategy document are the banning of unhealthy food promotion and tighter rules around advertising.

Unhealthy food promotions, such as ‘buy one get one free’, or displaying high fat, sugar and salt items in prominent positions increases the likelihood of them being purchased over healthier options, the document says.

“We know businesses can adapt and continue to offer customers good value for money but with an emphasis on healthier foods. By introducing mandatory legislation we will ensure a level playing field for everyone selling groceries,” it says.

Advertising restrictions on high fat, sugar and salt foods will also be extended to stop them being shown on TV and online before 9pm, in a bid to reduce children’s exposure to the ads.

Currently advertising these foods is banned during children’s TV programming, so this extends the restrictions further and applies them online.

Tools and support for healthier choices

Other action points include supporting people living with obesity who want to lose weight with science-back tools and services, potential ‘traffic light’ labelling of foods and calorie labelling on restaurant and café menus and alcohol.

First published: Jul 2020

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