It is widely acknowledged that most adults and children in the UK eat too much sugar and I share your concern about the rising rate of obesity in the UK, particularly among children.
Indeed, the British Medical Association (BMA)’s recent Food for Thought report states that the majority of children, young people and adults in the UK are not meeting dietary guidance and that an unhealthy dietary pattern is associated with a number of chronic, complex conditions including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
I agree that the Government, the NHS and the food and drinks industry need to work together to see what more can be done to encourage healthy eating and to reduce sugar content in our food and drinks – particularly in children’s diets.
Personally, I do not currently believe that a tax on sugary drinks is the best way to achieve this. I fear this would simply pass on the cost to the consumer and may not address the root causes of obesity and a poor diet. I looked at this issue very closely for the past two years as Shadow Public Health Minister and I was convinced that the food and drink manufacturers, retailers, advertisers and government could all do more.
Instead, I would like to see a more comprehensive approach that promotes healthy eating, tackles health inequalities, encourages more people to take part in physical activities, and improves awareness of the risks associated with a high sugar diet. That is why I stood on a manifesto at the 2015 General Election that included plans to tackle the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, provide consumers with clearer information about the nutritional profile of food and drink and to do more to promote school sports and healthy eating.
The Government are due to publish their national strategy on childhood obesity by the end of this year. I hope they bear in mind the concerns raised by The Children’s Food Campaign and others and ensure we have a comprehensive and robust approach to addressing this extremely important issue.