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Childhood obesity strategy falls short of expectations

The childhood obesity strategy – published today by the Department of Health – has been criticised by health experts and campaigners for not having tougher targets.
 
The strategy lays out a number of intentions, including plans to ask that the food and drink industry cut 5% of the sugar in popular children’s products over the next year, with an end target of cutting 20% of sugar in these products over the next four years.
 
Public Health England will monitor the progress over this time and if insufficient progress is being made, the government will consider whether alternative approaches need to be implemented.
 
In an Instagram post, TV chef Jamie Oliver slammed the strategy, calling it “disappointing and, frankly, underwhelming”.
 
“It was set to be one of the most important health initiatives of our time, but look at the words used – ‘should, might, we encourage’ – too much of it is voluntary, suggestive, where are the mandatory points?” he said.
 
“Where are the actions on the irresponsible advertising targeted at our children, and the restrictions on junk food promotions?”
 
Neil Leitch, chief executive at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, was also critical of the strategy, sharing concerns that it has fallen short of expectations.
 
“What’s more, while the development of menus to support early years settings – an initiative the Alliance is part of – is undoubtedly positive, it’s concerning to see that the strategy focuses so heavily on primary-age children with much less emphasis on the early years, despite the report’s own recognition that this is ‘a crucial time for children’s development’,” he said.
 
“We have long recognised the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles and good nutrition in the early years and as part of the Early Years Nutrition Partnership, which supports settings to improve their nutrition practice, believe that every child, without exception, should have access to good nutrition.”