No sweets at shop counters and a ban on junk food ads - the government's new plan for tackling obesity explained

Monday, 27th July 2020, 12:56 pm
Updated Monday, 27th July 2020, 12:56 pm
The new campaign aims to encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles (Photo: Shutterstock)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to help encourage the nation to lose weight, as government data shows almost two-thirds of UK adults are above a healthy weight.

Mr Johnson outlined a new obesity strategy on Monday (27 July), with new measures to be implemented to help tackle the problem.

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Why is the government introducing an obesity strategy?

The new “Better Health” campaign, led by Public Health England (PHE), aims to address the UK’s obesity problem by encouraging people to adopt healthier lifestyles.

According to figures from the Department of Health, 36 per cent of the country is deemed overweight, while 28 per cent are classed as obese. Data also shows that one in three children aged between 10 and 11 are either overweight or obese.

The Department of Health said 36% of the country was deemed overweight and 28% was classed as obese, while one in three children aged 10 to 11 are overweight or obese.

Mr Johnson admitted struggling with his own weight as he urged people to take action to improve their health, and said he had lost at least a stone in weight since recovering from coronavirus.

Announcing the new strategy on Monday (27 July), the Prime Minister said: “What we're doing now with our Better Health strategy is to try to help people a little bit to bring their weight down.

"Not in an excessively bossy or nannying way, I hope.

"We want this one really to be sympathetic to people, to understand the difficulties that people face with their weight, the struggles that everybody faces [...] and just to be helpful."

What measures are in the obesity strategy?

An end to confectionery displays at shop checkouts and a ban on junk food adverts on TV before 9pm are among the new measures to help encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Restaurants and pubs will also be required to display calories on menus under the new strategy, including alcoholic drinks, which are estimated to account for nearly 10 per cent of the calorie intake for those who drink.

Here are all of the key measures that will form the government’s new obesity strategy:

Shops

Shops are to be banned from pushing “buy one, get one free” promotions on unhealthy food items, as part of government efforts to reduce the temptation to snack.

Supermarket managers will also be banned from placing confectionery in tempting locations, including store entrances and beside checkouts.

Shops will instead be encouraged to offer more discounts on fruit and vegetables.

Advertising

The new strategy will put an end to junk food being advertised on television and online before the 9pm watershed.

The move aims to shield young people at a time when their food preferences are being set.

The government will also hold a consultation into whether the planned internet advertising restrictions could be wider reaching, with a total ban on advertising food high in fat, sugar or salt an option under consideration.

Calorie counting

New legislation is to be introduced that will force restaurants and takeaways with more than 250 employees to add calorie labels to their menus.

The labelling aims to help diners make more informed choices when ordering.

The Department of Health said a consultation would follow before the end of the year to help decide whether the same type of calorie labelling on alcohol should be required.

Health service interventions

NHS weight management services will be expanding and more smartphone apps will be rolled out, with the purpose of improving lifestyle and overall health.

The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme will also see improvements.

GPs will be encouraged to prescribe exercise and other social activities to help people keep fit, while cycling pilots will be set up in the poorest areas, with bikes to be provided to help boost activity levels.

Food packet labelling

A consultation will gather evidence on how the current "traffic light" labelling system on food packets is being used by consumers and industry, and will be compared with other international examples.

Current labelling is used to highlight the fat content and other barometers of how healthy a product is, helping shoppers understand what is in the food they consume.