Yesterday Jamie Oliver attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes meeting and called on politicians to take decisive action on childhood obesity.
The high-profile chef and food campaigner reminded the packed room that the cost of Type 2 diabetes to the NHS, and to the UK as a whole, is a huge challenge. In an impassioned speech he said that people want to make healthy choices but that mums and dads need clear food labelling to achieve this.
One small change to labelling
Jamie passed bottles of sugar-sweetened drinks around the room and told MPs he had made just one small change to their labelling, which was to insert the number of teaspoons of sugar in the drink.He explained that sugar-sweetened drinks are a major source of sugar in children’s diets. He said that sugary drinks had 'earned the right' to be taxed and discussed the positive impact a sugar tax could have on childhood obesity. However, he stressed the need for the UK to take a holistic approach to tackling obesity, explaining that a sugar tax would be a ‘symbolic moment’ from which other interventions would follow to deliver a ‘cascade of health change’.
Government urged to 'brave'
Jamie urged the government to be ‘radical and brave’ in its approach to child health. With five years ahead of it, he declared now is the time for government to ‘build a robust attack, fight and war against obesity’.Individuals in the room pointed out that many people with Type 1 diabetes use sugary drinks to treat hypos. Jamie said he recognised this and supports ‘an uncomplicated way’ to exempt hypo treatments.The meeting followed on from a session held by the Health Select Committee which focused on childhood obesity at which Jamie also gave evidence. The rise in number of people with Type 2 diabetes is due to a number of factors, one of which is an ageing population, but the single most potent risk factor for Type 2 diabetes is obesity which accounts for 80-85% of the overall risk of developing the condition.
Chris Askew, Diabetes UK’s Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted that Jamie Oliver is highlighting the need to prevent Type 2 diabetes by tackling obesity and calling on the government to act.
Calling for restrictions on marketing junk foods and other legislation
“Diabetes UK wants the government to take action including placing restrictions on marketing junk foods to children, introducing legislation to take out fats and sugars in foods and reduce portion sizes to reduce overall calorie intake, considering a ‘sugar tax’, and also putting greater investment into making it easier for people to be more physically active.
“Children should not be doomed to a future overshadowed by health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes, but to avoid this being a reality it is vital that the government takes action now.”