UK Government Opens New Front in Obesity War

25 January 2008

LONDON: The UK government has unveiled a much-anticipated, multi-million pound healthy living drive to combat the nation's apparent slide into a couch-potato state.

Health secretary Alan Johnson and the secretary of state for children, schools and families, Ed Balls, have given the green light to a £75 million ($146.8m; €100m) marketing campaign to help parents make changes to children's diet and encourage more exercise.

Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives will also address the vexed question of a unified food labelling system and challenge the industry to support programmes designed to counter the obesity epidemic.

The government claims two-thirds of British adults are either obese or overweight which, if unchecked, could rise to nine in ten adults by 2050.

UK communications watchdog Ofcom has already introduced restrictions on junk food advertising to children, but is under pressure from health lobbyists to toughen rules still further.

Advertisers are understandably keen to head off any threat of legislation.

Argues Advertising Association ceo Baroness Peta Buscombe: "The advertising industry has already responded constructively by working with Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority on a new regulatory framework for food advertising and new rules are in place for the advertising of food products on television and in other media."

"Self-regulation is clearly the best approach to regulating advertising," avers the Baroness. 

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff