The food and drink industry must be part of the solution to obesity – but there are significant gaps in its approach, says a new report from the UK’s National Obesity Forum.
While private-public programmes like Change4Life and the Responsibility Deal are important, the report says they cannot be expected to change the situation on their own. It added that a previous prediction that half the UK population could be obese by 2050, at a cost of nearly £50bn (€60bn) a year, could underestimate the scale of the problem.
“Harder hitting campaigns, similar to those for anti-smoking, are required,” it said.
The report, which has been released to coincide with National Obesity Awareness Week in the UK, called for action from business, government, society and individuals to curb obesity rates.
Specifically, it said that steps should be taken to reduce the contribution of sugar sweetened drinks, fruit juices and smoothies to total calories, especially as many people may overlook the calories from drinks they consider to be healthier.
“Policy should focus on reducing the amount of sugar in beverages, reducing the amount of sugar sweetened beverages that are consumed, and promoting water or low calorie alternatives as the best way of remaining hydrated.”
Among a range of recommendations emphasising healthy living over healthy eating alone, the report suggested that greater attention should be paid to those who were already overweight.
“Greater focus needs to be devoted to strategies supporting individuals who are already obese. Current government policy is focused largely on prevention, which is vital in ensuring the scale of the obesity problem and its associated costs do not increase. It does not, however, address the problems of those people already obese or morbidly obese and the costs associated with their health conditions.”
The report comes just weeks after the launch of a new Change4Life TV advertising campaign , which aims to encourage consumers to make ‘smart swaps’, such as sugary drinks for sugar free options or low fat milk, and to choose low sugar cereals and low fat dairy.
The full report is available online here (pdf).