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UK: Government’s obesity plan criticised

The British Government has released a new plan to tackle obesity, saying that while physical activity is important, eating or drinking too many calories is at the heart of the obesity problem. It is calling for a reduction of the national calorie intake by five billion calories a day.

Part of the plan is asking the food and drink industry to extend and intensify their efforts to help people make healthier choices. This includes reformulating products so they are healthier, and reducing portion sizes. It won’t require industry to act, relying instead on voluntary “self-regulation”.

Reaction to the obesity plan

“That’s a fat lot of good: the minister tells us to eat less but won’t put pressure on the food giants, ” says the Daily Mail. It follows with comments from public health and food campaigners. They criticise the plan.

The British Medical Journal says the plan focuses only on individual responsibility and fails to tackle the influence of the food and drinks industry.

The Guardian quotes Jamie Oliver as saying the obesity plan is “worthless, regurgitated, patronising rubbish”. One health expert condemned it for having “no clear measures on how the food and drink industry will be made to be more responsible in their aggressive marketing of unhealthy food.”

Consumer group Which? says the approach is woefully inadequate. “The government is telling people to cut down on calories, but isn’t providing tools to help them such as traffic-light food labelling or calorie labelling on food chain menus.”

Shadow Public Health minister Diane Abbott told The Independent that the obesity strategy was pathetic. “It makes no sense to me that companies that spend billions of pounds every year peddling fizzy drinks and trans-fat-loaded food are seriously going to eat into their profits by trying to change the public’s eating habits.”

Professor Philip James of the International Association for the Study of Obesity says, “It is not simply a question of personal responsibility. There is an environmental problem in terms of the food system we have,” according to the BBC.  He added that the junk food industry “manipulates” people into consuming their products and that legislation is needed.

Food manufacturers rejected these criticisms.

Published on October 20, 2011 in International news