How the government plans to tackle childhood obesity

Fiona Simpson
Thursday, May 13, 2021

Campaigners are celebrating after the government vowed to ban junk food adverts online and before 9pm on television.

The ban on junk food adverts will come into force in April 2022. Picture: Adobe Stock
The ban on junk food adverts will come into force in April 2022. Picture: Adobe Stock

The commitment was made during the Queen’s Speech earlier this week and will be introduced as part of the Health and Social Care Bill in April 2022.

CYP Now looks at measures set to be introduced to tackle childhood obesity:

Why is action needed?

  • More than one in three children aged 10 to 11, are overweight or living with obesity. 

  • The number of children admitted to hospital for obesity and related conditions has quadrupled in the last decade.

  • Children in the most deprived parts of the country are more than twice as likely to be obese as their peers living in the richest area.

What has the government promised?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed to an outright ban on junk food adverts online, many of which are targeted at children, and to ban the same adverts on television before the 9pm watershed.

The Health and Social Care Bill will also give ministers powers to change the way retailers label nutritional information, including calories, on food packaging. This includes the introduction of secondary legislation to require large out-of-home sector businesses with 250 or more employees to calorie label the food they sell.

Johnson also reiterated plans for £100 million extra funding for healthy weight programmes to support children, adults and families to achieve and maintain a healthier weight announced in the Healthy Weight Strategy in July 2020.

A new Fit Miles programme has also been announced as part of the bill which will see adults and families paid to adopt a more healthy lifestyle.

The government’s briefing notes, published ahead of the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday (11 May), state: “Helping people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is one of the most important things we can do to improve our nation's health. Making healthier choices easier and fairer for everyone, and ensuring the right support is there for those who need it is critical in tackling obesity.”

How has the sector reacted?

Campaigners have welcomed the move which comes after thousands of people signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to push forward measures listed in the government’s Tackling Obesity strategy published in July 2020.

Bite Back 2030, the youth-led campaign behind the letter, praised the commitment, writing on Twitter: “Thank you to all our supporters who fought hard for this. And thank you Boris Johnson for your commitment to remove junk food from the spotlight and set the stage globally for child health.”

The Children’s Food Campaign added: “We're delighted to hear that the government will be bringing forward measures to support healthier food environments, including a Junk Food ads ban online and on TV.”

Conservative peer and junior health minister in the House of Lords, Lord Bethnell said: “The commitment to powerful measures to address obesity, like the online junk food ban, shows how determined we are to improve the nation’s health.”

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