No clear route to tackle obesity

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Linda Cregan, chief executive of Children's Food Trust, says the Childhood Obesity Plan is a missed opportunity for the UK to lead the way

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Being overweight is not a choice a child makes. The way children eat is the product of what they learn at home, in childcare, at school and in what they see in the wider world around them. This is the challenge for this strategy, where it must make a meaningful difference.

We’re pleased to see plans to define the healthiness of products more clearly, to explore clearer labelling to help parents in the supermarket and when they’re eating out, to begin work to cut sugar in the foods children eat the most – though much more detail is needed – and to make healthier options the easy choices in every taxpayer-funded venue.

However, while the levy on sugary drinks – announced in George Osborne’s last budget in March – is expected to go ahead and we look forward to seeing what impact this has, the opportunity to take tough action on the marketing and pricing of foods high in fat, sugar and salt for children hasn’t been seized here, despite Public Health England’s recent recommendations on the impact of these factors for the way we eat.

The nonsense loophole, which means that thousands of schools in England don’t have to meet school food standards, is to remain open, and while plans for a healthy-rating scheme for primary schools are welcome, we’d like to see this extended to secondary schools, too.

While we recognise the importance of physical activity, we mustn’t forget that children’s understanding and knowledge of what it means to eat well, and their skills to cook good food, are also fundamentals if the next generation is to live more healthily than we do now.
‘To date, no country has brought together policy effectively across Government at the scale needed here, with the single focus of supporting children to eat well and grow up with a healthy weight. Our country should be leading the way.

Government describes this strategy as 'the start of a conversation' and that’s exactly what must happen now. It’s only by delivering these actions and many, many more besides that we can drive the change that we need and turn our child obesity record from a source of international shame to one of pride. If the UK was looking to this strategy for direction, the route isn’t yet mapped out.

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