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UK junk food ban is 'abandoned'

News, 18 July 2016
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LONDON: The British government is reportedly planning to severely water down proposals to curb the marketing of junk food, according to a leaked official paper.

With proposals to tackle rising child obesity in the UK due to be released this week, The Times obtained a current draft, which drops an earlier idea for a ban on ads of unhealthy food before the 9pm TV watershed.

Also dropped is a ban on the placement of unhealthy food items near the checkout counters in all shops, and manufacturers will not be forced to make their products healthier.

According to The Times, "no concrete measures to curb marketing of unhealthy products have been included" in the delayed blueprint on tackling obesity.

The newspaper suggested that ministers have succumbed to the lobbying efforts of the food industry and that health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who retained his job in last week's extensive reshuffle, is said to be struggling to get agreement from his new cabinet colleagues.

The Times further reported that the documents showed action to stem obesity lost its teeth as senior officials were distracted by the recent EU referendum.

Six months ago, it was reported that the government was considering sweeping new rules against the marketing of unhealthy food aimed at children at the same time as various leading health organisations warned of the risks.

For example, Public Health England announced the launch of a new app to help parents calculate how much sugar food products contain while also revealing that five-year-olds in the UK now eat their own body weight in sugar each year.

Rather than setting a legal maximum of sugar in products, as outlined in the draft strategy back in January, the latest iteration removes any threats and states that the food and drinks industry will be "challenged" to reduce overall sugar in products that "contribute to children's sugar intakes".

"It's a pathetic plan and it won't have any effect on childhood obesity," said Graham MacGregor, director of Action on Sugar, a campaign group.

"Last year it was a really good plan but it's been gradually eroded. Theresa May has got to go back and revise this completely."

Data sourced from The Times, BBC; additional content by Warc staff

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