‘Don’t play politics with children’s health,’ prime minister warned as junk food is overdue

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Health campaigners have accused the government of ‘playing politics with the health of our children’ after ministers scrapped plans to ban two-for-one junk food deals in supermarkets.

The government announced on Friday that it would postpone the ban on buy one, get one free (also known as Bogof) until 2023 due to the cost of living crisis.

The ban on TV advertising for foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) before a 9 p.m. turning point has also been suspended until January 2024.

The move was welcomed by industry but alarmed health campaigners.

The charity Sustain, which runs the Children’s Food Campaign, said the government had backtracked on its commitment to tackling obesity, saying multiple purchase discounts were not saving families money.

The campaign’s Barbara Crowther said the government should not “delay and hesitate”.

“Obesity is on the rise and millions of families cannot afford to have enough food on the table. Multi-buy offers cause people to spend more on junk food and less on healthy food,” he said.

“This delay threatens the UK’s goal of halving childhood obesity by 2030. Boris is playing politics with the health of our children.”

The group added that such deals “don’t save people money, but they do make us spend more on multiple purchases and less on healthy food and drink.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the ban on multiple purchase promotions will come into effect in October 2023, while the ban on TV advertising before 9 p.m. is delayed until January 2024.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver said banning junk food advertising on TV before 9pm was key to protecting children’s health.

She tweeted: “We know how vital it is to protect children’s health and ensure the next generation does not suffer from diet-related illnesses. Policies such as limiting junk food advertising to children are key to taking it to the next level and are popular with the public.

“It’s a wasted opportunity and it’s starting to erode the whole obesity strategy, which at one point seemed progressive and world-leading, but falls apart when it comes to acting on those policies.

“Parents and children no longer want to hear the government’s excuses. I really hope Prime Minister Boris Johnson proves me wrong and shows real leadership in giving young people a healthier and fairer future.”

Professor of food marketing and child health, Emma Boyland, at the University of Liverpool, said the delay was a “terrible decision”, adding that the government is “once again favoring big business at the expense of the health of population”.

For Labour, shadow public health minister Andrew Gwynne said: ‘Boris Johnson’s desperation to keep his job means the ideology of Tory MPs is being placed above children’s health.

“Instead of reducing childhood obesity, preventing health problems and easing pressure on the NHS, this chaotic government is making another U-turn.”

Lord Bethell, who led moves to block multiple purchase deals before he was sacked as health minister in last year’s reshuffle, said failure to resolve the “crisis obesity” would only increase the cost of the NHS. .

“More and more people are getting cancer because of obesity-related effects. So the 10-year cancer plan, the extra five years of longevity, and many more of our health goals suffer.

“All this disease caused by (the) overweight due to junk food is carried by the NHS and the taxpayers. We must take into account all the costs of the obesity crisis in this country”.

Lord Bethell questioned whether ministers would now be able to enforce the ban in the current Parliament in the face of opposition rooted in Tory ranks.

He told BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I’m afraid this will put a dent in the strategy against obesity. This has a huge subsequent effect on all of our health goals.

“The practical parliamentary aspects are that it will be extremely difficult to reverse these measures before the next election,” he said.

“I would like to take the government at its word, but of course I fear it will roll back the obesity strategy from the top down.

“I think the government should really focus its armor on reducing the obesity crisis rather than playing chorus.

“What we are seeing in supermarkets right now is an arms race against junk food. That has to change.”

Public Health Minister Maggie Throup insisted the government remained committed to tackling the problem of childhood obesity.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to help people live healthier lives,” he said.

“Suspending restrictions on offers such as buy one, get one free will allow us to understand its impact on consumers in light of an unprecedented global economic situation.”

The industry body, the Food and Drink Federation, hailed the “pragmatism” of the government’s action.

Kate Halliwell, its scientific director, said: “At a time when households and our producers are struggling with high inflation, it makes sense to delay restrictions on volume promotions for food and drink products from all over the world. days, including breakfast cereals, ready meals and yogurts, as this risked further stretching already stretched family budgets.

“We also welcome the delay in launching advertising restrictions, given the time it takes for our industry to prepare for the change in law.”

The DHSC said restrictions on the placement of less healthy products in stores and supermarkets will still come into effect in October as planned.

Last month, calorie labeling laws came into effect at major restaurants, bars and takeaways.

Other reports from the Press Association

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