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Government Food Strategy lacks the substance and commitments needed to reach key goals

Why we think the Government's new Food Strategy falls short of ambitions to reduce rising levels of obesity and health inequalities

The Government has now unveiled their long-awaited reply to the recommendations made within last year’s independent National Food Strategy. The new Government plan outlines some welcome next steps, but it is missing the bold proposals, supported by Diabetes UK, that were called for within the National Food Strategy. This comes after recent alarming announcements delaying key interventions to reduce obesity.

With more measures to tackle health inequalities and obesity expected within the upcoming Health Disparities White Paper, we are calling on the Government to show that it is committed to enabling everyone across England to lead healthier lives by introducing the policies from the National Food Strategy.

The new food white paper announced this week includes:

  • A commitment to consult on mandatory reporting by the food industry on the healthiness of their products
  • A commitment to consult on healthier food within the public sector
  • Trials to explore the most effective interventions to enable healthier diets
  • A commitment to bring in a land use framework by 2023 to set out steps to becoming carbon neutral, and meeting biodiversity targets.

There is no mention within the paper of the key recommendation within the National Food Strategy of introducing a salt and sugar reformulation tax (to incentivise industry to produce healthier food). Nor is there any mention of the recommendation to expand free school meals and other support measures for those on low incomes to access a healthy diet, needed now more than ever. The paper is fairly short on commitments overall when compared to the 14 wide reaching recommendations it is responding to.

This follows the Government’s recent decision to delay restrictions on advertising and promotions of unhealthy food and drink, which were key aspects of its Obesity Strategy. We are concerned that this is a sign the Government’s willingness to adopt the range of ambitious interventions needed to reduce obesity is waning.

Diabetes UK is calling for the Government to urgently reverse its decision to delay restrictions to junk food marketing and unhealthy food promotions, and to outline further bold steps within the forthcoming Health Disparities White Paper. These should include introducing further recommendations from the National Food Strategy, including a reformation tax and an expansion of free school meals, in order to meet its goal of halving childhood obesity by 2030.

Bridget Turner, Director of Policy, Campaigns and Improvement at Diabetes UK, said:

“It’s disappointing to see so few of the health recommendations of the National Food Strategy included in the Government’s Food White Paper. With growing health inequalities and rising levels of obesity in England, particularly among children, the need for a bold Government food strategy is greater than ever.”

“It is clear that urgent action is needed to improve the health of our nation. Living with overweight or obesity is the main modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and it is vital that the Government reverses its recent U-turns on its Obesity Strategy and takes up the National Food Strategy recommendations within their upcoming Health Disparity White Paper.”

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