UK & World News

  • 22 June 2014, 12:39

'Sugar Tax' Call From Child Obesity Campaigners

A campaign group has called on the Government to introduce a "sugar tax" to help tackle the problem of childhood obesity in the UK.

Action on Sugar also wants limits on the availability of ultra-processed foods and sweetened soft drinks, as well as a ban on "junk food sports sponsorships".

The measures are part of a seven-point plan it has developed following a request for its views from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The group's chairman, Professor Graham MacGregor, told Sky News: "One in five children is obese and one is three is overweight.

"Once an adult is obese it is very difficult to get that weight off - you're there for life."

The seven measures called for by Action on Sugar are:

:: Reduce added sugars by 40% by 2020 by reformulating food

:: Cease all forms of targeted marketing of ultra-processed, unhealthy foods and drinks to children

:: Disassociate physical activity with obesity via banning junk food sports sponsorships

:: Reduce fat in ultra-processed foods, particularly saturated fat - 15% reduction by 2020

:: Limit the availability of ultra-processed foods and sweetened soft drinks as well as reducing portion size

:: Incentivise healthier food and discourage drinking of soft drinks by introducing a sugar tax

:: Remove responsibility for nutrition from the Department of Health and return it back to an independent agency

Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, said: "It is really quite shameful that the food industry continues to spend billions in junk food advertising targeting children. They even manage to associate sugary products with sport.

"Physical activity has a multitude of benefits but a child doing an hour of PE every day would be putting all to waste if they ended up gorging on a burger and chips and a packet of crisps washed down with a sugary drink."

Prof MacGregoradded that obesity can result in cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, which can in turn lead to blindness, renal dialysis and amputation of the lower limbs.

"It's so incredibly expensive to treat. It's already costing 5bn a year and is predicted to rise in 10 years to 50bn, a large part of the NHS budget, so we've got to do something."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Childhood obesity is at its lowest since 1998 but more should be done.

"Next week we will get expert scientific advice on sugar which will help shape future thinking. We will consider these recommendations as part of this."