UK Government vs Food Industry: Measures to Halve Child Obesity by 2030

by The Health Sciences Academy — Get free science updates here.

Have you heard this?

It’s been all over the news…

The UK government just released a staggeringly lengthy list of measures to tackle child obesity.

And things are being shaken up! Chefs are panicking. Food companies are furious. TV producers trembling.

I’ve received countless questions about this… So what’s my take?

First, let’s look at the 3 big changes that’s got everyone up in arms:

  1. Menus in restaurants will need to tell you how many calories are in any dish you order.
  2. Adverts for junk food will be a no-no before 9pm.
  3. Supermarkets won’t be able to display tempting, sugary sweets at the checkout, or advertise multi-buy offers.

Sounds simple… no problem here, right?

Well not so fast! It’s worth taking a closer look, point by point.

1. Calories in all menus

Surely putting calorie information on a menu is quick, easy, and great for everyone… or maybe not?

The government says that adding calories to menus means people are likely to eat less as a result.

But when I read this, I was thinking the opposite may happen too…

After eating a “naughty” food, that guilt can lead to a binge-eating episode or what I call the what-the-hell effect. If we know something contains tons of calories, this effect kicks in and might make us consume even more…

For some of us, it’s all or nothing!

2. No more junk-food ads for kids

Our kids watch an average of 14 hours of TV each week. Which means they also see plenty of enticing ads for junk food (Oh dear!).

The government’s stepping in by proposing a ban on these pesky adverts until 9pm (Hooray!).

But wait a minute… When I look at the data, I can see that over a million kids are still watching TV by 9pm.

Most kids watch TV between 6 and 8pm, but over 1 million are still watching at 9pm (Childhood obesity: a plan for action).

So is 9pm going to be late enough? Debatable.

3. Supermarkets getting a scolding

The final big changes:

  • Removing sweets and treats from checkouts
  • Banning tempting BOGOF deals on “unhealthy foods”

Treats at checkouts have been a big problem for a long time… in particular for children. If they can’t resist them, they’ll ask for them… A lot. Loudly.

Or worse: grab them since they’re within arm’s reach(!)

BOGOF means Buy One, Get One Free – which is very tempting, in particular when you see those giant multi-packs of crisps (chips) that could feed an entire village, at a bargain…

Getting these bans proposed wasn’t an easy task: I’ve witnessed constant lobbying, pushing for these changes over the past 10 years. So it’s great the government listened, at last!

What I find a little disappointing is that the measures don’t encourage deals on fresh produce – possibly because of the difficulty to bring prices down. Which is a shame. For most people, prices do affect their food choices (tons of evidence here).

Overall, I believe the government’s actions are a fantastic step towards making a change. Though here at The Health Sciences Academy, we know that this isn’t the full picture…

Reducing our kids’ exposure to these foods at home and school is important too.

So we need to make sure we replace junky products with optimal nutritious alternatives to give them the best start in life.

That’s why the team and I work tirelessly, bringing together the latest science to produce our extensive training about the nutrition behind a child’s development. You can download the curriculum here.

If you want to get the latest science and our tips, make sure you sign up to our emails HERE.

The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right Alex Ruani, Doctoral Researcher, is the Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy, where her team of accomplished scientists and PhDs are training a new breed of over 100,000 highly-specialised nutrition professionals who are leveraging the latest personalisation strategies to help their clients. She is a Harvard-trained scientist and UCL Doctoral Researcher who is fanatical about equipping health professionals with the latest science-based tools so they can succeed in their practices – from identifying the unique nutrient needs to building highly personalised nutrition programs. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition biochemistry, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free email updates.

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